J Street Makes First Endorsements

Monday, June 16th, 2008

James Besser in Washington

J Street PAC, the new political funding group created to help candidates who support a more active U.S. peacemaking role in the Middle East, is moving quickly to put itself on the political map.

In a teleconference on Monday, executive director Jeremy Ben-Ami announced the group’s first seven endorsements — a mixed group of House incumbents and candidates who have one thing in common: they all want stronger action to advance the two-state solution President Bush insists is still a goal of his administration.

The group is bi-partisan – just barely, with one Republican.

For its initial electoral push, the group “specifically sought out newer voices in the American political scene – members with one or two terms of service, and candidates seeking election for the first time in November,” said Ben-Ami. “We believe fresh voices are needed on the national political scene to carry the message that a strong, sensible American foreign policy that will make resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict quickly and diplomatically is a priority.”

What does the J Street endorsement mean in terms politicians understand the best – campaign dollars?

Ben-Ami said the new group’s Web site will be an “online hub for large numbers of small donors who will contribute to the candidates we support. We will also be actively soliciting funds from our network of supporters to provide financial support for the candidates we endorse.”

And J Street’s finance committee will be “committing up to $10,000″ in donations to a “limited number of candidates we endorse,” he said. Decisions about who will get the larger donations, he said, “will be made in the fall based on competitiveness and a range of other factors.”

The list of initial endorsees includes Rep. Steve Cohen, the Jewish Democrat who represents a black majority district in Memphis, and Dennis Shulman, running to defeat a veteran House member from New Jersey. Shulman, who recently won his party’s nomination in the race, is a psychologist, a rabbi – and blind.

Also endorsed: Rep. Charles Boustany (R-La.), a Lebanese-American lawmaker who last year authored a letter with Rep. Gary Ackerman (D-NY) calling for a reinvigoration of the Israeli-Palestinian peace process; Darcy Burner, a Democratic House contender from Washington; Donna Edwards, who was expected to win a special election to the House from Maryland this week; Debbie Halvorson, the Majority leader of the Illinois State Senate who is running for an open House seat ; and Mary Jo Kilroy (D-Ohio), also running for an open seat.

Ben-Ami said the group, which has raised $1 million so far, will eventually endorse “several dozen” candidates before voters go to the polls in November.

About the Author
Douglas M. Bloomfield is a syndicated columnist, Washington lobbyist and consultant. He spent nine years as the legislative director and chief lobbyist for AIPAC.