Rep. Jane Harman (D-California).(Wikipedia)
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Israel Hits the West Coast

California’s primaries and the Jews

Allison Hoffman
June 08, 2010
Rep. Jane Harman (D-California).(Wikipedia)

Today is Primary Day in California—which, among other things, marks the beginning of the end of the Arnold Schwarzenegger Era. (The state’s term limits mean he won’t be baaahck, at least not as governor.) The marquee gubernatorial race features former eBay head Meg Whitman duking it out with technology entrepreneur Steve Poizner for the chance to face Jerry “Governor Moonbeam” Brown in November. But Tablet Magazine’s readers should pay attention to a few other contests, too.

First, the Senate race. On the Democratic side, Slate blogger Mickey Kaus—who proudly traces his California heritage back to Jews who moved West with the Gold Rush—is mounting a longshot (to say the least) challenge against seasoned incumbent Barbara Boxer (née Barbara Levy, of Brooklyn), mainly because he can. “Democrats deserve a choice, too,” Kaus writes on his campaign Website. Fair enough!

Over on the Republican side, former Hewlett-Packard chief and McCain-Palin adviser Carly Fiorina is fighting for the party’s nomination against Tom Campbell, a former congressman and Stanford Law professor, and Chuck DeVore, a state assemblyman. The race has largely followed the now-standard California pattern: Tea Party-favorite DeVore threatens to siphon conservative votes from Fiorina’s base, creating a window of opportunity for Campbell, the social moderate.

Israel came into play early in the race, when both Fiorina and DeVore pounced on Campbell for voting against increasing foreign aid to Israel, in 1990, and for taking campaign funds from a University of South Florida professor who subsequently pleaded guilty to helping the Palestinian Islamic Jihad. Campbell apologized in March, at the state Republican convention, saying, “I did not know, but I could have known.” (Not the most scintillating campaign motto, you’ll agree!) In last week’s New Yorker, Connie Bruck wrote that Fiorina was thinking of running TV ads highlighting her support for Israel, but that appears not to have happened; nonetheless, while Campbell spent Sunday calling supporters from his home in Northern California, DeVore spent the afternoon rallying for Israel before joining Fiorina at a Republican Jewish Coalition gala in Beverly Hills alongside former Minnesota Sen. Norm Coleman and Karl Rove.

As it happens, the Gala guest list also included one of Tablet Magazine’s favorite California pols, the “Birther Queen” Orly Taitz. A Soviet Jew who wound up in Orange County by way of Israel, she was seen last summer asking California’s secretary of state, Debra Bowen, to prove that she had verified President Barack Obama’s birth certificate. Now, Taitz is a dark horse candidate for Bowen’s job, over former NFL player Damon Dunn. Taitz either declined to accept state spending limits or didn’t want to pay per-word fees to submit a candidate statement, and her Website doesn’t appear to be working. But political observers say she’s still got a chance, because Dunn has chosen not to run a primary campaign. “For professional Republicans right now, the main tactic in regards to Orly Taitz is prayer,” Claremont McKenna political science professor Jack Pitney told Politico.

One more! Rep. Jane Harman, an eight-term Democratic incumbent from Los Angeles’ South Bay, is being challenged by a peace activist named Marcy Winograd, who wrote in The Hill this week that she was invited to join the May 31 Free Gaza flotilla. “Had I not been in the middle of a congressional campaign, challenging Jane Harman—a hostess of AIPAC dinners in her home in Venice—I might have gone,” Winograd added. Instead, she sent some ‘Winograd for Congress’ t-shirts to the flotilla participants; now she’s calling for Congress to pass a resolution demanding an international investigation into the raid.

Harman, a longtime member of the conservative Blue Dog Democrats, responded with a statement echoing the Obama administration’s “deep sorrow at the loss of life,” and asking Israel to pass humanitarian supplies through the blockade to Gaza. Bill Boyarsky, one of the most astute observers of L.A. politics, described the back and forth as a “disagreement between these two Jewish women over the future of Israel itself”—which just so happens to be playing out in a district where the Jewish vote can tip the balance.

Right Fight [The New Yorker]
Related: In Doubt’s Shadow [Tablet Magazine]

Allison Hoffman is a senior editor at Tablet Magazine. Her Twitter feed is @allisont_dc.