Good Tuesday morning!
Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-TX) is planning to announce his bid for chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, pitting him against more senior contenders Reps. Brad Sherman (D-CA) and Gregory Meeks (D-NY).
Castro explained his motivation to the Washington Post. “Our foreign affairs committee needs to catch up with where Democrats are in terms of foreign policy,” he said. “Over the years, there have been top many voices excluded; I think too often Palestinian voices have been excluded. If the United States is going to be an arbiter of peace, it has to be willing to hear from the different sides, and in my estimation we’ve not always done that.”
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) announced her endorsement of Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) in the August 11 Democratic primary in Minnesota’s 5th congressional district.
Jamaal Bowman and Mondaire Jones, the two presumed successors to Reps. Eliot Engel (D-NY) and Nita Lowey (D-NY), have indicated to The Daily Beast that they will partner with “The Squad” on progressive legislation.
More than $2.2 million in federal funding — secured by Lowey — has been allocated to strengthen security at Jewish institutions in Westchester and Rockland Counties.
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Eyeing the races in Texas’s much-anticipated primary runoffs
There are a number of races to look out for in Texas’s highly anticipated primary runoffs today. Patrick Svitek, a political correspondent for The Texas Tribune, ran through some of the most noteworthy races in a recent conversation with Jewish Insider’s Matthew Kassel.
Senate runoff: At the top of the ticket is the Democratic primary runoff for the U.S. Senate. M.J. Hegar, an Air Force veteran, is going up against Royce West, who has served in the Texas Senate for close to three decades. Though West has trailed Hegar in the polls, he has slightly closed the gap in recent weeks, but Svitek believes that Hegar — who is backed by the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and has outraised her opponent — is the ultimate favorite in the race.
TX-10: In 2018, Mike Siegel, a progressive Democrat, came within just four percentage points of beating Rep. Mike McCaul (R-TX) in the state’s 10th congressional district. He is trying again this cycle, but first, Siegel will have to defeat Pritesh Gandhi, a well-known doctor in the district. Svitek said Siegel has built-in name recognition from his last attempt at the seat, which may provide him with an advantage in the runoff.
TX-17: Former Rep. Pete Sessions, who lost to a Democrat in 2018 in the state’s 32nd district, is trying to make his way back to the House in the open-seat contest to replace retiring Rep. Bill Flores in the 17th. But Sessions may have some trouble regaining entry given that Flores has endorsed the other candidate in the race, local businesswoman Renee Swan. Svitek told JI that Sessions may be the slight favorite in the district given his name recognition, “but I think it’s going to be a close race, regardless.”
TX-22: Two far-right candidates — Kathaleen Wall and Troy Nehls — are vying to succeed Republican Rep. Pete Olson, who isn’t seeking re-election. Wall, a wealthy Republican donor, is almost exclusively self-funding her campaign, while Nehls, a sheriff in Fort Bend County, has struggled to raise money, but has a solid base. “He just seems to cultivate loyalty among his followers,” Svitek told JI. Still, he noted, Wall had “an embarrassing loss” last cycle in another Texas district, and Nehls has some “vulnerabilities in his law enforcement background” that may put him at risk in the general election.
TX-24: Two Democrats are running in a competitive district for the chance to succeed Rep. Kenny Marchant (R-TX), who is retiring at the end of his term. Kim Olson, a former military pilot, is something of a “mini-celebrity” in the state thanks to her run for Texas agricultural commissioner two years ago, said Svitek. Candace Valenzuela, a young progressive candidate of color, got into the race a little later than Olson and had a slow fundraising start, but picked up the endorsements of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus and Emily’s List, as well as Sens. Kamala Harris (D-CA) and Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Rep. John Lewis (D-GA). “Valenzuela has really built considerable momentum in this runoff,” Svitek told JI.
Jeff Sessions’s last stand: In the Alabama Senate primary runoff, former U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions is competing to win back his old Senate seat in a heated matchup against Tommy Tuberville, 65, a well-known former Auburn University football coach who has the backing of President Donald Trump. It is not going well for Sessions who, at 31%, trails Tuberville by 16 points, according to the latest polling. Tuberville’s campaign, which has been notoriously press-shy, declined to speak with Jewish Insider before the runoff. But a spokesman provided JI with Tuberville’s position paper on Israel and the Middle East. In it, Tuberville presents himself as an unequivocal supporter of Trump’s foreign policy approach. Read more here.
In Maine, Sara Gideon is expected to win today’s Democratic primary for Senate, setting her up to take on Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) in November.
DON’T MESS WITH TEXAS
High-stakes Republican runoff in Texas attracts national attention
Tony Gonzales recently spent two years in Washington, working as a Department of Defense legislative fellow for Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL). Now, the former Navy master chief petty officer is looking to return to the nation’s capital, this time as a congressman. But he’ll first need to win today’s GOP primary runoff against fellow veteran Raul Reyes. Jewish Insider’s Marc Rod spoke with Gonzales about his candidacy and his approach to foreign policy.
Trump-Cruz proxy war: Gonzales, who earned the endorsement of President Donald Trump, came out on top in the March 3 primary in Texas’s 23rd district, taking 28% of the vote to Reyes’s 23%, in the race to succeed retiring Rep. Will Hurd (R-TX). Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) broke with the party to support Reyes, boosting him with a massive ad campaign that raised eyebrows in the White House. On the eve of the primary, Trump’s campaign sent a strongly worded letter to Reyes’s campaign, admonishing him for using the president’s name and image on a mailer.
Uphill battle: The winner in the GOP primary will go up against Gina Ortiz Jones, who handily beat her opponents in the Democratic primary. Jones, who narrowly lost to Hurd 49.2% to 48.7% in 2018, is favored to win in the district rated by The Cook Political Report as “lean Democratic.” But Gonzales is optimistic that voters in the district will turn out for him in November. “This is a Republican seat,” he said. “This district is 71% Hispanic. I’m Hispanic, I speak Spanish fluently. I’m Catholic. I have six children. Gina Jones on the other side is none of that.”
Background: While serving as a Navy cryptologist, Gonzales was deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan. And while working for Rubio, he focused on defense, national security and intelligence issues, with a particular focus on the Middle East. “I spent my entire adult life basically at war,” he said. “A big part of my message is taking care of veterans, on one hand. The other aspect of it is for America to be firm. I believe in peace through strength.” In 2018, as a national security fellow for the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, Gonzales visited Israel, which he said helped shape his view of the region and understanding of the geopolitical situation.
Views on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict: Gonzales said he does not believe the U.S. should dictate any specific peace plan for the Middle East, nor should it dictate whether Israel should be allowed to unilaterally annex portions of the West Bank. “The Israelis and the Palestinians, I think, should lead the way,” he said. He added, however, that “my experience in the military has taught me that you really can’t have peace unless you have partners that are willing to have that discussion. So I think it starts there.”
DOCTOR IN THE HOUSE
In Texas, former presidential doctor Ronny Jackson seeks a seat in Congress
In competitive Republican primaries across the country, candidates are emphasizing their ties to President Donald Trump. But Dr. Ronny Jackson, who’s competing in a runoff in Texas’s 13th congressional district today, has a unique relationship with Trump — one that no other candidate can boast. Jewish Insider’s Marc Rod spoke with Jackson about his time as Trump’s personal physician and his run for Congress.
Close ties: “I just came from the White House. I just worked side by side with President Trump every day,” Jackson told JI. “He’s got a lot of trust and confidence in me. I know all the Cabinet secretaries… All of these relationships that I have are going to bring a lot of influence and a lot of authority to our district.” Jackson, a retired Navy rear admiral, also served as President Barack Obama’s personal physician, something he left out of his campaign biography. Prior to joining the White House Medical Unit under President George W. Bush, Jackson was deployed to Iraq in an emergency medicine role.
Background: In 2018, Trump nominated Jackson to lead the Department of Veterans Affairs, but the physician withdrew his nomination amid a slew of misconduct accusations, which he has denied. In Tuesday’s runoff, Jackson faces former cattle industry lobbyist Josh Winegarner, who was the top vote-winner in the March 3 primary. The two, who are mostly aligned on policy issues, have clashed over their backgrounds. Jackson and his allies, including Donald Trump Jr., attacked Winegarner’s career as a lobbyist and questioned his conservative credentials. Winegarner accused Jackson of running for Congress as a “backup plan” after he lost the chance to lead the VA.
Mideast matters:During his military service, Jackson spent time in Israel and later visited while serving in the White House. “I’ve been around [Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu a lot,” he said. “[I] have a lot of respect for him and I like his approach to things.” Jackson said he favors a two-state solution and supports the president’s Mideast peace plan, adding that ”I think that the Israelis have to make sure they protect all the occupied areas that they have right now, and don’t give up any of the areas that are occupied right now in the negotiations.” Jackson said he’s opposed to restoring aid to the Palestinian Authority, which he said sponsors terrorism, and condemned calls to condition aid to Israel.
Virus views: Although coronavirus cases in Texas are surging, Jackson claims the left is “using [rising case numbers] to try to maintain a certain level of fear in this country to keep the economy down.” The physician said Trump has “done the right thing and backed off of letting the medical taskforce kind of drive the train on this… I probably would have been advising him to back down from some of the recommendations from the medical task force and start putting the focus on the economic task force even earlier.”
Jemele Hill weighs in on antisemitism in her own community
Jemele Hill reflects on the DeSean Jackson scandal and issues of antisemitism within the Black community in a widely read essay published Monday in The Atlantic:
“Regardless of what happens with Jackson, the unfortunate truth is that some Black Americans have shown a certain cultural blindspot about Jews. Stereotypical and hurtful tropes about Jews are widely accepted in the African American community. As a kid, I heard elders in my family say in passing that Jewish people were consumed with making money, and that they ‘owned everything.’
“My relatives never dwelled on the subject, and nothing about their tone indicated that they thought anything they were saying was anti-Semitic—not that a lack of awareness would be any excuse. This also doesn’t mean that my family—or other African Americans—are more or less anti-Semitic than others in America, but experiencing the pain of discrimination and stereotyping didn’t prevent them from spreading harmful stereotypes about another group.”
🤝 Pipe Dream:Former U.S. negotiator Aaron David Miller writes for the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace about his memories and reflections from the Camp David summit 20 years ago this week. The meeting, “ill-conceived and ill-advised — should probably never have taken place,” writes Miller. And today, “the illusions I held about peacemaking are now long gone.” [CarnegieEndowment]
🎒 Stay Home: Noga Tarnopolsky reports in The Daily Beast that Israel’s rush to reopen schools was a major driver in its new spike of COVID-19 cases. “The fact is that schools were not prepared to take students back under the necessary conditions to contain the epidemic,” said epidemiology expert Dr. Mohammad Khatib. [DailyBeast]
Around the Web
🤐 Apology-ish: After his extensive antisemitic remarks resurfaced, Nick Cannon toldFast Company that there was no “malice or intent” in his comments and that he plans to feature rabbis who have reached out to him on a future podcast to “educate me and help further this conversation.”
💰 Big Bucks: A proposed Iran-China economic deal envisions massive Chinese investments in Iranian infrastructure that could total $400 billion over 25 years.
🇭🇰 Learning Lessons: David B. Rivkin Jr. and Anastasia Lin posit in The Wall Street Journal that the U.S. could mimic anti-boycott legislation when it comes to U.S. companies being pressured by China over Hong Kong.
🏗️ Moving On: Ousted WeWork founder Adam Neumann, who partnered with Jeffrey Dagowitz’s JHG Holdings, was approved for a $75 million loan for a Chelsea development site.
🏡 New Owner: Sam Pritzker, son of billionaire John Pritzker, has bought the historic Samuel-Navarro house in Los Angeles for about $3.5 million after close to four years on the market.
🏭 Shut Down: The Los Angeles Apparel factory of Dov Charney — the disgraced former CEO of American Apparel — was ordered to close down after more than 300 workers were infected by COVID-19.
📅 New Date: The Jerusalem Film Festival has rescheduled its physical edition planned for the summer due to Israel’s spike in coronavirus cases.
🌳 Therapy Methods: Israel’s Nature and Parks Authority is suggesting people hug trees to overcome detachment anxieties due to social-distancing restrictions.
🧑⚖️ Insufficient Claim:A Tel Aviv District Court rejected Amnesty International’s bid to prevent Israeli spyware firm NSO Group from being allowed to export its products abroad.
🏳️🌈 Off Shelf: An Arab-Israeli tahini company, Al-Arz, is facing boycott calls from the Arab community over its support of LGBTQ rights.
🖋️ Rebuttal: U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman responded to Peter Beinart’s essay against two states in a Jerusalem Post op-ed, writing that Beinart’s approach “would ultimately destroy Israel and bring as calamitous a result as the destruction of the First and Second Jewish Temples.”
📝 Over the Border: An Israeli research center has located at least 28 new Hezbollah missile launching sites in civilian areas in Beirut.
🎥 Hollywood:The Jewish Film Institute has selected six films to receive funding as part of its inaugural “Completion Grants Program.”
✍️ Boycott the Boycotters: Missouri Gov. Mike Parson signed into law the state’s Anti-Discrimination Against Israel Act, which prohibits public entities from entering into contracts with companies that support the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement.
💉 Talk of the Town: Dr. Israel Zyskind, a pediatrician in Brooklyn’s Borough Park, spotlighted the donating of blood plasma to fight COVID by thousands of now-recovered Orthodox Jews in a segment for NBC’s “Today Show” on Monday.
⚖️ Facing Justice: Two French men are expected to stand trial for the brutal killing of 85-year-old Holocaust survivor Mireille Knoll in her Paris apartment in 2018.
👩🦰 Transition: Ashley Gold has been hired as a reporter for Axios covering tech policy.
Pic of the Day
Actor Robert De Niro shared his views about the coronavirus pandemic and the future of the filmmaking industry in a Zoom call with students from Tel Aviv University on Friday, moderated by former Israeli Consul General in New York Ido Aharoni.
Editor-in-chief of the Washington Free Beacon, Eliana Yael Johnson turns 36…
Architect and urban designer, Moshe Safdie turns 82… Cy Young Award-winning MLB pitcher, Steve Stone turns 73… Los Angeles resident, Susan Farrell turns 73… Film producer Joel Silver turns 68… Film and theatrical producer, Scott Rudin turns 62… SVP and wealth management advisor in the LA office of Merrill Lynch Wealth Management, Scott Shagrin turns 59… Chairman and CEO of both Cantor Fitzgerald and BGC Partners, Howard Lutnick turns 59… Venture capitalist and a partner at Accel Partners, James W. Breyer turns 59… Reporter and columnist for the Chicago Tribune, Phil Rosenthal turns 57… Principal at Oakland-based Full Court Press Communications, Dan Cohen turns 51… Member of the Washington State Senate, David S. Frockt turns 51…
Founder and CEO of Uncle Howie Records, William “Bill” Braunstein, better known as “Ill Bill,” turns 48… Professor in the department of genetics at the Harvard Medical School, David Emil Reich, Ph.D. turns 46… Retired mixed martial artist, now a life coach, Emily Peters-Kagan turns 39… Professional golfer with four tournament wins in the Asian and European tours, David Lipsky turns 32… Founder at Bashert Group, LLC, Daniel B. Jeydel turns 31… Senior program analyst at Crown Family Philanthropies in Chicago, Rachel Giattino turns 30… Special projects associate at GlossGenius, and founder of the Second Date Shadchan Instagram feed, Elizabeth Morgan (Lizzy) Brenner turns 26… Menachem Shemtov…