How Did Local Jewish Candidates Fare in the 2022 Election?

Ben Waxman, second from left, campaigns in Philadelphia. (Courtesy of Ben Waxman)

Pennsylvania Gov.-Elect Josh Shapiro was not the only Jewish candidate to run in the Greater Philadelphia area in the 2022 election: Several Jewish locals ran for the United States Congress and the Pennsylvania General Assembly, too.

Two Jewish women, Susan Wild and Lisa Scheller, competed against each other for the U.S. House of Representatives seat from PA-7, which covers the Lehigh Valley. Two Jewish Democrats, Steve Santarsiero, a Congregation Kol Emet member in Yardley, and Mark Pinsley, campaigned for state Senate offices representing Bucks and Lehigh counties, respectively. And three Jewish Democrats, Ben Waxman, Ilya Breyman and Gwen Stoltz, tried to win state House seats in Center City, lower Bucks County and central/upper Bucks County.

Here’s how they did.

Wild versus Scheller

Wild, the Democrat, was running for her third term after beating Scheller, the Republican, by about 14,000 votes in 2020. And Wild, who converted to Judaism during her son’s bar mitzvah process, beat her rival again.

With 98% of the vote counted, the contest has been called for the incumbent. But with red Carbon County in PA-7 this year, it looks like Wild will beat Scheller by even less this time. Wild leads by 1.6% and fewer than 5,000 votes.

“Pennsylvania’s 7th congressional district is a truly special place and the only place I have ever called home,” Wild said in a campaign email after her victory. “It has been the honor of a lifetime to serve as your representative, and even more of an honor to earn your trust to continue that service.”

Santarsiero and Pinsley

Santarsiero, who served four terms in the state House from 2009 to 2017, got elected to the Senate from the state’s 10th district in 2018 and now reelected in 2022. The Democrat received more than 76,000 votes compared to a little over 54,000 for his opponent, Republican Matt McCullough. Santarsiero finished with more than 58% of the vote.

Pennsylvania state Senate candidate Mark Pinsley (Courtesy of Mark Pinsley)

Pinsley fell to Republican Jarrett Coleman in the 16th Senate district. The Lehigh County-heavy territory, which also includes parts of Bucks, was gerrymandered by Republicans to exclude most of Allentown, the Lehigh County seat. In Allentown’s 2021 mayoral election, Democrat Matthew Tuerk received almost two-thirds of the vote. So, the gerrymandering made it difficult for Pinsley to win. But the controller of Lehigh County doesn’t regret his attempt.

“I would totally do it again. I met so many people. It’s just so interesting to see the different communities,” he said.

Next year, he will do it again, in a way. Pinsley is planning on running for reelection to his controller seat. The businessman was not involved in politics before 2016 but became motivated by that year’s Republican presidential candidate, Donald Trump. He didn’t like Trump’s rhetoric about Mexicans and Muslims. And once you get involved in politics, Pinsley said, “all of a sudden you see a lot of injustice.” He said the experience reminded him of the importance of his favorite Jewish value, tikkun olam, or repairing the world.

“You really do feel like we need to repair the world,” he added.

Waxman, Breyman and Stoltz

For Waxman, who was running in the Center City-based 182nd district, there was little doubt that he would win. Philadelphia is more than 80% blue. The question was how many people would turn out, and the answer was a respectable amount. Waxman, a Temple Beth Zion-Beth Israel member, received more than 26,000 votes in an election in which the total turnout, more than 29,000, topped 50%.

The party activist and former communications staffer for Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner was excited to see Shapiro and John Fetterman, the Democratic candidate for Pennsylvania’s U.S. Senate seat, win as well.

“It was a really good day for Democrats,” he said.

And that really good day should help protect the right to an abortion that was overturned by the Supreme Court earlier this year, according to Waxman.

“People want to make sure that Roe v. Wade is protected and codified in state law, and we have that now in the governor,” he said.

Breyman and Stoltz, running in purple Bucks County, did not fare as well as Waxman did in blue Center City. Breyman fell by more than 4,000 votes in PA-178, while Stoltz lost by less than 3,000 in PA-143.

Like Pinsley, though, Breyman enjoyed the experience.

“I got out in my community and talked to thousands upon thousands of people. I walked probably every street here,” he said. “Bucks County is beautiful, and our district is beautiful, and it was great to be able to see it.” JE

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