Jewish Candidates Win, Lose in Primaries

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When Jeff Bartos realized he was about to win the Republican primary for lieutenant governor on May 15, he felt immense gratitude and took a moment to reflect on his mother who passed away just a few weeks before.

Jeff Bartos

“It’s been a roller coaster of emotions,” said the Jewish real estate developer, who won with 46.8 percent of the vote. “Losing my mom, mourning, shiva, still campaigning, trying to balance all of the family needs with still running this race through the finish line. I just took a quiet moment to reflect on how much I miss my mom, how much I wish she had been here to celebrate with us, but also how proud she would be of how we dusted ourselves off after the loss of a parent.”

While Bartos’ candidacy advanced to the general election in November, the May 15 primary saw mixed results for local Jewish politicians. In the first elections featuring Pennsylvania’s new congressional map, Bryan Leib, who ran uncontested in the Republican primary for the 3rd Congressional District, won; Shira Goodman, though, lost her race in the Democratic primary for the 4th Congressional District.


Bartos said his staff took his cell phone away from him on Election Day and told him to spend time with his family.

After dropping his daughter off at school at Jack M. Barrack Hebrew Academy, voting, hosting a Facebook live video with his wife, calling supporters and having dinner with his brother and family in Lancaster, Bartos and his family went to York to spend time with state Sen. Scott Wagner (R-District 28) and his family. Wagner won the Republican primary for governor, making him and Bartos running mates.

By the time the Associated Press called the race for Wagner, Bartos said, the candidate had about a 100,000-vote lead.

Bartos will now run against Braddock Mayor John Fetterman, who won the Democrat primary for lieutenant governor, while Wagner will face off against Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf in November’s general election.

“We’re focusing on the forgotten women and men around the commonwealth,” Bartos said. “I’m from Reading. Scott’s from York. Too many of our smaller and medium-sized cities have been decimated by an economic malaise, really just an ignoring of the economic plight of so many places by — not just by Gov. Wolf — this has gone on for too long. The principal focus we have is on protecting people’s paychecks today, making sure their paychecks tomorrow have more money in them and making sure our children and grandchildren want to live in Pennsylvania.”

In the 3rd Congressional District, which essentially comprises the western half of Philadelphia, Leib will face Democratic Rep. Dwight Evans in the general election.

Bryan Leib

“It’s just incredibly humbling to be one of the two Jewish Republicans from Southeastern Pennsylvania on the ballot in November,” Leib said. “I look forward, with Jeff, to being able to be a strong voice for the Jewish community here in Philadelphia and throughout the region. It’s just very exciting to be able to be with Jeff on this run. I’m very happy for him obviously. That goes without saying.”

With 16.4 percent of the vote, Goodman, who took a leave of absence from her position as executive director of CeaseFire PA for her campaign, came in second to state Rep. Madeleine Dean (D-District 153), who received 72.6 percent of the vote. Following her loss, Goodman will return to CeaseFire PA.

“I would have liked to have have won, but that was not meant to be,” Goodman said. “I learned a lot during this process. This campaign spoke to people who were looking for a way to stand up and do something, people who were frustrated and angry, and that’s what I was trying to do. I wasn’t trying to make a whole new career or climb the ladder. I wanted to say, ‘Is there another way to serve?’”

Shira Goodman

Goodman said she decided to run in this election because between gun violence at the forefront of people’s minds and the redistricting of the state, it felt like the right moment. While she doesn’t know if she’ll ever run again, she said she won’t rule it out.

Goodman also said that some had expressed concern about multiple women running in the same race. There was a narrative that it would split the vote and Joseph Hoeffel, the one man in the race and a former congressman at that, would win as a result. But that didn’t happen.

“We have to realize that we’re in a new era,” Goodman said. “It’s not so simple. Women can run against women and still succeed, and that could be good for those who win and those who lose. People shouldn’t be discouraged from taking the chance.” 

szighelboim@jewishexponent.com; 215-832-0729

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