Good Tuesday morning!
Today, three states — New York, Kentucky and Virginia — hold their Republican and Democratic primaries. See below for a full preview of the key congressional races and check out our interactive election map for more details.
Following the recent shakeup at The New York Times’ opinion desk, which saw the departure of top editor James Bennet and the reassignment of deputy editor Jim Dao, the paper announced yesterday that it was hiring Charlotte Greensit, the managing editor of The Intercept, to be the new managing editor of its opinion page.
Last week, the Times opinion section published an op-ed by Brooklyn College professor Moustafa Bayoumi that — in the context of attempting to explain why a Muslim-owned grocery store called the cops on George Floyd — included a controversial paragraph excusing the “resentment” towards Jewish shop owners in Harlem in the 1960s:
“These stores become sites of gathering and sometimes sources of resentment. In Harlem in the 1960s, most such stores were Jewish-owned, and James Baldwin wrote, ‘It is bitter to watch the Jewish storekeeper locking up his store for the night, and going home. Going, with your money in his pocket, to a clean neighborhood, miles from you, which you will not be allowed to enter.’”
Similar to how Hollywood failed to speak up loudly against Ice Cube and Chelsea Handler in recent weeks, the editors at The Washington Free Beacon point out regarding the op-ed that, “In the media, where heads now roll for failure to anticipate the impact of an argument on minority groups, anti-Semitism remains what it has always been: an enduring and acceptable hatred.”
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Reading the primary tea leaves amid this national moment
As the politics editor of National Journal, Josh Kraushaar is professionally required to keep track of polls, platforms and party squabbles. But one gets the sense he’d be doing that anyway, given his deep knowledge of such matters, on full display in his weekly column, “Against the Grain,” and his lively Twitter feed. In a Zoom call with Jewish Insider on Monday, Kraushaar shared his thoughts on some of the key primaries taking place today in New York, Kentucky and Virginia.
NY-17: Mondaire Jones recently emerged as an unexpected frontrunner in the crowded race to succeed outgoing Rep. Nita Lowey, which includes more centrist candidates such as Evelyn Farkas and Adam Schleifer. “This is the type of race where you just have a confluence of events that are really playing to Jones’s advantage,” Kraushaar observed. “If any one of the other candidates can get to 30% then they’re probably going to be able to win. But if the winning number is 25 or lower, I think Jones may have the logical path to win this nomination.”
NY-16: Rep. Eliot Engel (D-NY) is facing an estimable challenger in Jamaal Bowman in the 16th district. “Whenever you’re seen as being inattentive to the basic needs of your constituents, that is the fuel that allows a challenger to really catch fire,” Kraushaar said.
NY-15: Rev. Rubén Díaz, Sr. is seen as a strong contender to win the Democratic primary in this southern Bronx district, despite his vehement opposition to gay marriage and abortion. But Kraushaar believes that stories hyping Díaz’s election prospects are overblown, noting that the 15th is the most Democratic district in the country. “If I had to bet money, I think Torres is the favorite,” he told JI, referring to Ritchie Torres.
NY-09: In Brooklyn’s 9th congressional district, Rep. Yvette Clarke is facing a challenger from the progressive flank, Adem Bunkeddeko, as well as on the right from Chaim Deutsch, plus challenges from a few other candidates. “You really need to run an inside straight to defeat a member of Congress,” Kraushaar said. “It makes it all the more challenging when you have other candidates that could be splitting that opposition, so I would give Clarke an edge, but that is a race to watch and Bunkeddeko has run a pretty solid campaign.”
VA-05: Kraushaar believes the 5th congressional district in his home state could turn blue in November after Republican Rep. Denver Riggleman failed to secure his party’s nomination at last week’s convention, losing out to Bob Good. On the Democratic side, Cameron Webb, an African-American physician, seems to have some late momentum in the primary, Kraushaar said. “It’s a race to keep an eye on.” Jewish Insider’s Marc Rod spoke with Democratic contender Claire Russo about her shot in today’s primary and the chance of flipping the seat in November.
Kentucky Senate primary: Until recently, Amy McGrath, who has managed to raise more than $41 million in her bid to unseat Sen. Mitch McConnell, was regarded as a sure bet in Kentucky’s Democratic Senate primary. But the mood has changed significantly over the past few weeks as demonstrators have taken to the streets of Louisville to protest the fatal police shooting of Breonna Taylor. The protests have given an opening to Charles Booker, a Black Senate candidate who currently serves in Kentucky’s House of Representatives. If McGrath loses, it might be one of the all-time congressional upsets, according to Kraushaar. “She’s one of the best-financed Senate candidates in recent memory,” he told JI. “That would be a literal David versus Goliath story if it happened, and there’s a real chance.”
DOWN TO THE WIRE
Amy McGrath’s Senate bid in Kentucky faces an 11th-hour upstart
Amy McGrath, who is running for Senate in Kentucky’s Democratic primary, has raised more than $41 million in her effort to unseat Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell this fall. But her chances of making it to the general election — which once seemed a safe bet — now hinge on whether she can beat Charles Booker, a political parvenu who has gained momentum in the final weeks of the campaign, reports Jewish Insider’s Matthew Kassel.
Picking up steam: Booker, the 35-year-old freshman member of Kentucky’s House of Representatives, has picked up a number of key endorsements from the progressive flank of the Democratic Party, including Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY). Though he has raked in a fraction of McGrath’s war chest, he has been gaining on his opponent, according to a recent poll✎ EditSign commissioned by the non-profit think tank Data for Progress and conducted by Civiqs, which put Booker eight points ahead of McGrath, well outside the margin of error.
Tight fight: Still, experts cautiously agree that McGrath has an advantage in the race despite Booker’s late-in-the-game rise. Other polls have shown McGrath in the lead, even as she has fought to overcome some campaign missteps. The 45-year-old former fighter pilot has struggled to define herself too far from the center, observers say, while Booker has taken a number of progressive stances that Democratic voters in Kentucky may find refreshing in a traditionally conservative state. He supports Medicare For All, criminal justice reform and the Green New Deal.
Closest ally: McGrath’s campaign provided JI with a position paper✎ EditSign in which the senatorial hopeful lays out her views on Israel and the Middle East. “After having operated in the Middle East for many years as a U.S. Marine, I see and appreciate the unique security requirements of our closest ally in the region, Israel,” she writes. “I fully believe the continued security of Israel and its people are essential and are in the United States’ interest, and I believe a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is fundamental to Israel’s security.”
Waiting game: It is unlikely that the race will be decided today given the number of absentee ballots that need to be counted. There could also be complications at voting sites, as Lexington and Louisville, two of the largest cities in Kentucky, will only have one polling place each due to the coronavirus pandemic. A McGrath loss “would be one of the greatest pratfalls in the history of American politics,” Al Cross, director of the Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues at the University of Kentucky, told JI. “I don’t think she’s going to lose, but she could.”
Two controversial Republicans duke it out over Trump in Kentucky’s 4th district
Republicans in Kentucky’s 4th congressional district will have a hard choice to make as they enter the ballot booth today, reports Jewish Insider’s Marc Rod.
Both sides: Voters will have to pick between giving incumbent Rep. Thomas Massie — a libertarian-leaning congressman unpopular with House members on both sides of the aisle — a fifth term or placing their confidence in trial attorney Todd McMurtry, who was considered a serious challenger but then lost establishment support with the emergence of past controversial tweets. Massie was one of four Republicans who voted against the bipartisan Never Again Education Act and the only Republican to vote “no” on last year’s anti-BDS resolution (H.R. 246).
Toss up: A Kentucky GOP operative familiar with the race told Jewish Insider, “I think it could go either way.” Massie has the advantage as an incumbent, he said, but “I think that people specifically in the northern Kentucky base, where the 4th district is based, are tired of a congressman who is just from the ‘party of no,’ and want to actually have someone who provides constituent services.”
Non-factor: D. Stephen Voss, a professor of political science at the University of Kentucky, doesn’t think the racism allegations — against either candidate — will be a deciding factor for voters. “[Conservative Republican] voters typically react poorly to accusations of racism being thrown around anyhow,” he explained. The winner of the Republican primary is virtually assured victory in the deep-red district come November. Ahead of Tuesday’s election, McMurtry acknowledged his long odds. “I think we made a good effort,” he told JI. “I feel that we have done the best we can with the coronavirus and all the other problems that we’ve confronted.”
And up in New York:
NY-03: The night before his primary, two-term Rep. Thomas Suozzi’s (D-NY) mind was on Israel. Joining a virtual get-out-the-vote forum with Democratic Majority for Israel, he touted his strong support for the Jewish state during his time in Congress. “I just want you to know that I would consider myself to be one of the most reliable non-Jewish Democratic votes in the House of Representatives,” Suozzi said during the DMFI event.
The centrist Suozzi, who represents New York’s 3rd congressional district, which includes parts of Queens and Long Island, is being challenged from the left in Tuesday’s primary by healthcare advocate Melanie D’Arrigo and former sex crimes prosecutor and ex-volunteer firefighter Michael Weinstock.
NY-24: An Iraq war veteran and a university professor are battling it out in the Democratic primary in New York’s 24th congressional district for a shot at unseating Rep. John Katko (R-NY) this November. Dana Balter, a professor of public policy at Syracuse University — who ran and lost to Katko in 2018 — will have to beat former Navy intelligence officer and Pentagon advisor Francis Conole on Tuesday for a second chance at the seat. JI’s Marc Rod spoke with Balter about her strategy this time around and her foreign policy views.
Susan Rice: Annexation would make bipartisanship on Israel ‘much harder to sustain’
Former U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Susan Rice, who also served as national security advisor under former President Barack Obama, believes Israeli annexation of parts of the West Bank would have “negative consequences” for the U.S.-Israel relationship.
In an interview with Israel Policy Forum’s executive committee member Alan Solow — set to be aired later today and shared with Jewish Insider ahead of its broadcast — Rice asserted that “on so many levels” annexing parts of the West Bank “is a risky outcome that that is not necessary for any strategic purpose — in my judgment — but more as a political statement, and the negative consequences for Israel’s security, for its standing in the region, for its relationships with the rest of the world, as well as for American interests, is hard to overstate.”
Rice, who is reportedly a contender to become former Vice President Joe Biden’s running mate, added that such an effort “would make the traditionally bipartisan strong support for Israel that much harder to sustain.”
Happening today: Rice is part of a list of policy makers and community leaders who will address IPF’s virtual webcast. Other prominent speakers include Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), former U.S. Ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro, former Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Michele Flournoy, Ret. Gen. John Allen, former Israeli intelligence and military heads Ami Ayalon, Danny Yatom and Gadi Shamni.
Heard yesterday: Speaking on a Zoom call hosted by J Street on Monday, Rep. Karen Bass (D-CA) said that the House letter released last week opposing unilateral annexation of some areas in the West Bank would “probably not” be enough to prevent Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu from pursuing the move. “I think that it’s got to be bipartisan,” Bass said. The only way to stop the effort, she added, would be the election of former Vice President Joe Biden in November.
GOP assurance: 115 House Republicans signed a letter sent to Netanyahu✎ EditSign on Monday “to emphasize that Israel has the right to make sovereign decisions independent of outside pressure” and “to assure you that we will stand shoulder-to-shoulder with Israel and oppose any effort to apply pressure.” The content of the letter was first reported by JNS.
Divided team: In The New York Times, David Halbfinger and Michael Crowley posit that Israeli and American officials — as well as Jared Kushner and Ambassador to Israel David Friedman — are “deeply divided” on annexation. Friedman, “has let it be known that he is more invested in annexation than in the peace plan,” while Kushner wants to use the threat of annexation as leverage to bring the Palestinians to the table.
View from Jerusalem: Former Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni explains in The Washington Post that while peace is not in sight, annexation will close any path to a two-state solution that will ensure Israel remains Jewish and democratic.
🤕 Universally Unpopular: New York magazine’s David Freedlander details how New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio’s handling of recent events in the Big Apple has alienated his base, his police department and even his own staff. Colleagues claim the mayor is afraid his tenure will be defined by racial tension the same way such incidents led to the fall of former Mayor David Dinkins in the early 1990s. [NYMag]
🕵️ Insider View: Fiona Hill, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, spoke toThe New Yorker’s Adam Entous about her time in the chaotic Trump White House as an expert on Russia — and the accusations that she wrote an anonymous op-ed against the president. “I would never have done anything anonymously.” [NewYorker]
⚕️Be Prepared: Google co-founder Sergey Brin has founded and funded a secret disaster response team, reports Mark Harris in The Daily Beast. For the past five years, Global Support and Development “has been quietly using high-tech systems to rapidly deliver humanitarian assistance during high-profile disasters, including the COVID-19 pandemic.” [DailyBeast]
Around the Web
✉️ Agendas: The Wall Street Journalreported yesterday that Geoffrey Berman, the former U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, refused to sign a DOJ letter criticizing Mayor Bill de Blasio for refusing to ease restrictions on religious gatherings while allowing protests to take place.
🗳️ Open Eyes: Veteran campaign finance lawyer Marc Elias, who has become the go-to election lawyer for Democrats, is warning of a potential voter suppression catastrophe in the November elections.
🚢 Wave Through: Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps is planning to establish a new permanent base that would increase its hold on the Gulf of Oman and control over the Indian Ocean.
🚫 No Compromise: The U.S. is planning to urge the U.N. Security Council to place an indefinite arms embargo on Iran.
🧑⚖️ Talk of the Nation: A U.S. Army soldier is facing charges for allegedly providing classified military information to a white supremacist group described as an “occult neo-Nazi” organization.
🖋️ Hot Take:Historian Zoe Strimpel argues that Black Lives Matter protests are a catalyst for antisemitism because some anti-racism movements see Jews as part of an imperialist Zionist conspiracy.
👶 Tragic: An 8-month-old baby died in Gaza after he was stopped from traveling to Israel to undergo heart surgery by Palestinian officials who cut ties with Israel.
😷 Shifting Gears:The Israeli government is considering renewing its tracing and surveillance program amid a rise in coronavirus cases.
📱 Spy Games: Amnesty International claims that technology from Israel’s embattled NSO Group was used by the Moroccan government to spy on a journalist critical of the regime.
📱Startup Nation: Israeli-based Healthy.io has developed a cellphone urine testing lab that would make accurate testing “as easy as taking a selfie.”
🛡️ Peaceful World: Israeli defense exports reached $7.2 billion last year, marking a 5% drop from 2018 and a 23% decline from 2017.
🏷️ Big Buy: Microsoft has purchased Israeli firm CyberX for a reported $165 million.
🏕️ Reopen Now: The Association of Jewish Camp Operators in New York is requesting a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction to immediately open overnight camps in the Catskills.
📞 Checking In: The Museum of Jewish Heritage has been reaching out to dozens of its Holocaust survivor volunteers each week during quarantine to make sure they are safe.
🏞️ Paying Tribute: Austrian officials attended a ground-breaking ceremony yesterday for a new Holocaust memorial in Vienna’s central Ostarrichi Park.
🕯️Remembering: Joel Schumacher, the director of two “Batman” films, died at age 80 after a year-long battle with cancer. Ex-Bank Hapoalim chairman Oded Eran died at 65 two days after stepping down from the position due to illness.
Pic of the Day
Vanity Fair national correspondent Emily Jane Fox and Hollywood producer Lee Eisenberg (“Little America”; “The Office”) were engaged over the weekend in Los Angeles. Vanity Fair’s Nick Bilton gets the ‘shadchan’ creds.
Actress and comedian Melissa Rauch turns 40…
Former president of Brandeis University and Massachusetts General Hospital, Samuel O. Thier, M.D. turns 83… Real estate developer and co-founder of Tishman Speyer, Jerry Speyer turns 80… Managing director at Eurasia Group, Robert D. Kaplan turns 68… Novelist and journalist Roy Hoffman turns 67… Los Angeles-based restaurateur and breast cancer fundraiser, Lilly Tartikoff Karatz turns 67… Klezmer expert and violinist, Yale Strom turns 63… Co-founder of the Center for Contemporary Political Art, Robin Strongin turns 61…
Associate editor at the New Jersey Jewish Standard,Lawrence Yudelson turns 56… Teacher at Golda Och Academy in West Orange, New Jersey, Stephanie Z. Bonder turns 55… EVP and general manager of the NFL’s Philadelphia Eagles, Howie Roseman turns 45… President & COO of D1 Capital Partners, Jeremy Katz turns 43 (h/t Playbook)… Founder of Innovation Africa, Sivan Borowich-Ya’ari turns 42… Actress Marielle Jaffe turns 31… Ethiopian-born Israeli model who won the title of Miss Israel in 2013, Yityish Aynaw turns 29… Client services specialist at Shootsta in Hong Kong, Josh Lauder turns 25…