The Jewish activist running for Congress in North Carolina — for the second time

meet the candidate

Kathy Manning was the first ever female chair of the board of the Jewish Federations of North America

Kathy Manning

When voters in North Carolina’s newly redrawn sixth district head to the polls on Tuesday, local Democratic Jewish activist Kathy Manning is hoping to win their votes. Manning, who ran unsuccessfully in 2018, launched her campaign in December following a state-wide redistricting that captured national attention and reshaped the state’s political landscape. 

Manning’s prolific career includes serving as the first female chair of the board at the Jewish Federations of North America, sitting on the Jewish Agency’s board of governors, and working as an immigration attorney and a community activist in the district — which includes Greensboro and its suburbs. She is a current board member of the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee.

Background: North Carolina’s electoral map was redrawn last year after state courts ruled that the former map was illegally drawn. Manning told Jewish Insider that the redistricting, which created a more heavily Democratic district, was a major factor in her choice to mount another run. “I think I have a much better chance of winning in this district,” Manning said. “Although I enjoyed running in the last district, only 45% of the voters were in Guilford County where I live. The rest of the voters — 55% — were in four rural areas that are very, very conservative and have much different issues than… the people in Guilford County.” In 2018, Manning handily won her Democratic primary, but lost to incumbent Rep. Ted Budd (R-NC), 51-45%.

Manning’s competition: Four other candidates are vying for the Democratic nomination. Manning has raised more than $870,000, over six times the amount brought in by her next closest Democratic competitor. Republican Rep. Mark Walker, who has held the seat since 2015, announced in December that he would not seek re-election.

Why she’s running: Manning has lived in the district for more than three decades and has established deep roots in the community. “I think I’m the one with the experience and leadership skills to be a great representative for this district.”

Focus on healthcare: She said her top priority in Congress would be healthcare and prescription drug pricing, a personal issue for Manning, who has battled with her insurance company over medication for her daughter’s chronic illness. “I was just astonished at how hard I had to fight to get the medication approved, and it really started me thinking about what people go through every day to get the healthcare they need and to get the the prescription drugs that they need,” she said. Manning wants to build on the Affordable Care Act, including adding a “robust” public option, permitting people to buy into Medicare at a younger age and allowing the government to negotiate with pharmaceutical companies.

Immigration reform: Manning said the country needs to update its immigration policies because the last major reforms, from 1986, are severely outdated. “The world has changed,” Manning said. “And our immigration laws need to change to meet the current dynamics of our economy. She added that the U.S. should establish a pathway to citizenship for children in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, as well as their parents, and called for an end to the policy of separating families at the border. “That is the kind of horrific thing I never thought I would see in this country,” she said.

Israel: Manning, who has traveled extensively in Israel, expressed strong support for the U.S.-Israel alliance. “It is critically important for the state of Israel to have secure borders. It is critically important for the state of Israel to always maintain a qualitative military edge,” Manning said. “And I strongly believe that Israel is the best ally the United States could ever have in that region, because we share values.”

Trump’s Mideast peace proposal: The congressional hopeful is critical of the peace plan announced by the White House last month, calling it “an aspirational goal that represents what many Israelis would like.” Manning told JI that she doesn’t “quite understand how it will get the Palestinians to the table.” Manning was wary of a proposal that is not a result of direct talks between Israeli and Palestinian leaders. “I think that we need a plan that is negotiated by the parties themselves and not imposed from an outside country or organization,” she said.

Jewish upbringing: Manning said the lessons she learned growing up have helped shape her life and priorities. “I think it all goes in part to what I learned growing up Jewish, both in our history and in the teachings, those things that impacted me from the beginning,” she said, listing among her inspirations Hillel the Elder’s statement, “What is hateful to you, do not to your neighbor”; teachings about justice in Deuteronomy, and the lessons of the Exodus and Passover.

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