endorsement alert

J Street endorses Casten over Newman in Illinois Democratic primary

The group's endorsement in the member vs. member House matchup comes in wake of Newman's Office of Congressional Ethics probe

U.S. House of Representatives

Reps. Sean Casten (D-IL) and Marie Newman (D-IL)

In a closely watched Chicago-area primary between two incumbent House Democrats, liberal pro-Israel group J Street is throwing its weight behind Rep. Sean Casten (D-IL), J Street President Jeremy Ben-Ami told Jewish Insider on Tuesday. Casten is participating in a J Street delegation of House members visiting Israel this week. 

J Street had previously endorsed both Casten and his opponent, Rep. Marie Newman (D-IL), prior to a redistricting process that changed the borders of the legislators’ districts. The organization stood by Newman in September when she was one of just eight Democrats to vote against a $1 billion supplemental funding package for Israel’s Iron Dome missile-defense system — legislation that J Street supported. The group held a fundraiser for Newman days after the vote. 

J Street spokesperson Logan Bayroff issued a statement of support for Newman in early October, saying J Street PAC was “proud to endorse Rep. Newman, who throughout her time in Congress has been a vocal and principled advocate for diplomacy-first American leadership and Israeli-Palestinian peace.” At the time, Illinois’ new maps had not yet been approved.

“After redistricting placed them both in a race for Illinois’ 6th District,” Bayroff told JI on Tuesday, “we reviewed the race based on a number of factors and ultimately have made the decision this month to endorse Rep. Casten alone in this new head-to-head matchup.” 

Newman attracted national grassroots support in her 2020 victory over incumbent Rep. Dan Lipinski (D-IL), who was at the time one of the most conservative Democrats in Congress.

Casten earned the endorsement last month of the pro-Israel political action committee Democratic Majority for Israel

Newman is currently embroiled in a congressional ethics investigation relating to her alleged bribery of Palestinian-American professor Iymen Chehade, who now serves as a highly paid advisor to her reelection campaign.

A congressional ethics watchdog report revealed that Chehade had asked Newman to agree to support a range of anti-Israel policies, as well as to hire him to her congressional staff, in exchange for his agreement not to challenge her in the 2020 Democratic primary. Newman did not sign the proposed agreement on Israel policy, but responded to Chehade, “most of [the proposal] looks good.”