Majority of J Street-Backed Candidates in Contested Races Lose

J Street says growing influence will allow it to 'retake the reins of America's foreign policy'

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November 8, 2018

Liberal Jewish advocacy group J Street emerged as one of the biggest backers for Democratic candidates this cycle, but a majority of the candidates in races deemed competitive fell to their Republican opponents.

J Street endorsed more candidates than ever before in 2018, putting its support behind 102 Democratic incumbents in the House and 25 Democratic incumbents in the Senate. The group boasts that it was able to distribute nearly $5 million in support of its candidates.

Though many of it's candidates won, many of them were running in safe seats for Democrats. J Street's support proved ineffective in races where there was a real opponent.

In Senate elections, for example, J Street endorsed 17 Democratic candidates, but only five of them—Jacky Rosen in Nevada, Heidi Heitkamp in North Dakota, Robert Francis O'Rourke in Texas, Claire McCaskill in Missouri, and Jon Tester in Montana—were in races considered to be contested. Just two of them, Rosen and Tester, emerged victorious.

In House elections, where J Street made endorsements in 51 competitive races, just 22 were winners, giving them a 42.86 win percentage in contested races for the cycle.

Republicans made a concerted effort to combat J Street in five districts where the backed candidates were deemed especially hostile to Israel. House speaker Paul Ryan (R., Wis.) raised over $300,000 to defeat them.

Three of those five J Street-backed candidates were defeated, including Virginia candidate Leslie Cockburn, a former journalist who wrote a book promoting the conspiracy that Israel controls American foreign policy. Also defeated was Dan Kohl, an original cofounder of J Street who ran in Wisconsin.

Despite the losses, J Street's influence among elected Democrats is on the rise. When the new Congress forms in January, "at least 50 percent of the incoming House majority will be made up of J Street-backed candidates," the group says.

In an email to supporters, J Street president Jeremy Ben-Ami said its victories will allow it to "retake the reins of America's foreign policy."

"After last night's victories, we can finally begin to retake the reins of America's foreign policy and make gains in our fight for a better future for Israelis and Palestinians," Ben-Ami wrote.