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Feinstein Up, Rothman Down, Shmuley In

And Berman will have another chance at Sherman (Oaks)

Allison Hoffman
June 06, 2012
Sen. Dianne Feinstein last month.(Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
Sen. Dianne Feinstein last month.(Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

It wasn’t super, but yesterday was Tuesday, and two of Tablet Magazine’s favorite states finally held their primaries: California and New Jersey.

As expected, Democratic California Sen. Dianne Feinstein outpaced her myriad challengers, pulling in 56 percent of the vote in the open primary. Elizebeth Emken, the favored candidate of the Republican Party, came in second, vanquishing birther queen Orly Taitz and the self-proclaimed Tea Party surfer rabbi, Nachum Shifren.

And, as expected, Jewish House Democrats Brad Sherman and Howard Berman secured a November face-off for their newly shared San Fernando Valley district, a.k.a. “Two Jews, One District.” Sherman took 42 percent of the vote, while Berman—who had the uphill battle in a district that largely did not overlap with his former territory—came second with 32 percent. The question for Berman? How many of the district’s now-disenfranchised Republican voters—more than 20 percent in the primary—he can capture, and convince to turn out for him in the fall. “This campaign wasn’t geared toward June,” Berman told supporters last night. “It was geared toward November.”

The Garden State’s traditional closed primary system meant that one of the two Democrats battling over a newly combined district in the bedroom communities Englewood and Paterson had to fall. In the event, it was Rep. Steve Rothman, who is Jewish and has been active on Iran issues as a member of the House subcommittee on defense, who was trounced by Rep. Bill Pascrell, 61 percent to 39. Rothman, like Berman, was the one who essentially lost his old district, but whereas Berman forced a Democrat-vs.-Democrat contest by refusing to move, Rothman created the internecine conflict with his decision to travel across district lines rather than face a conservative Republican.

Pascrell has come in for criticism from Republican groups for being one of 54 signatories to a 2010 Congressional letter circulated by J Street and Americans for Peace Now urging the White House to pressure Israel to ease Gaza sanctions. But that same year, Pascrell also joined Rothman in sponsoring another letter asking President Obama to grant clemency to Jonathan Pollard. So, wash?

Not so fast: Pascrell now faces none other than Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, whose most recent stunt was to claim Jesus never meant to cause a fissure with his fellow Jews, in November. “My essential argument in my campaign is that our Christian brothers and sisters have had ample opportunity to affect the United States with Christian values, especially the evangelical right over the past 30 years,” Boteach told the Times of Israel this week. “It’s time for Jewish values in the political arena.”

Allison Hoffman is the executive editor of CNN Politics.