Scott Wallace, the Democratic nominee in the 1st Congressional District, received an endorsement from J Street on July 23. It came as little surprise, considering Wallace has long fashioned himself a “J Street Democrat,” meaning he is left-leaning and supportive of a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
That’s a mantra also in step with the Jewish Democratic Council of America’s stated values. JDCA formed from the ashes of the National Jewish Democratic Council, and its members seek to be the primary antagonists to the Republican Jewish Coalition.
In that sense, it might be seen that JDCA’s lack of endorsement for Wallace signals the organization is falling behind J Street. But JDCA executive director Halie Soifer said the organization takes a targeted approach to its endorsement strategy, and hasn’t ruled out supporting Wallace in its next wave of endorsements in August.
“They are taking a different approach. They’ve endorsed a number of candidates,” Soifer said of J Street and similar organizations. “We aim to be strategic, aiming to flip seats or support incumbents where we believe our support can help make the difference.”
To this point, JDCA has endorsed 15 Senate and House Democratic candidates running in the November midterm elections, including in Pennsylvania: incumbent Rep. Conor Lamb (District 17) and Susan Wild (District 7).
J Street, meanwhile, has endorsed 115 candidates running for the House and 15 for the Senate.
Soifer said JDCA has received and is reviewing a completed questionnaire from Wallace with information about his campaign. In the meantime, Wallace is basking in his J Street endorsement.
“I deeply share [J Street’s] commitment that the best ticket to a stable and prosperous Israel, and sustainable peace in the region, is a two-state solution,” Wallace said in a statement. “I am inspired by my grandfather’s vision in advising Presidents Roosevelt and Truman more than seven decades ago, and by my own recent extensive travels in Israel with my Israeli cousins. I have seen first-hand the perils and challenges of Gaza and the occupied territories, and the disastrous impacts of the misguided campaign of boycott/divest/sanctions. In Congress, I will fight to keep Israel secure, to promote collaboration with its neighbors, and to rein in those who would do it harm, particularly Iran.”
Wallace’s first foray into the political arena has not come without controversy. The grandson of Vice President Henry Wallace was heavily criticized by some in the Jewish community after the revelation that a family-run fund of which he was co-chair had backed organizations supportive of the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel. The news initially prompted Democratic Jewish Outreach Pennsylvania to publicly announce it would not endorse Wallace, only for the organization to reverse course about a month later and endorse him.
“At the end of the day, Democrats realize they need every district if they’re going to take control of the House,” said Patrick Murray, director of the Monmouth University Polling Institute. “That’s why I think Wallace is being allowed to make a bit of mea culpa here on this issue.”
Republicans and incumbent GOP Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick have pounced on Wallace’s apparent connections to organizations supporting BDS. A $530,000 RJC advertisement that ran from June 21-July 2 derided Wallace as “anti-Israel.”
Wallace has pushed back against those claims, and early polls reveal a tight race. Soifer and JDCA have expressed an interest in providing extra pushes in key races for Democrats, and Wallace’s bid against Fitzpatrick seems to fall into that category.
“We are looking with great interest at many of the races in Pennsylvania. There’s no question Pennsylvania is one of the central targets for Democrats in November,” Soifer said. “There are a lot of races there that will be potential pickups for Democrats. If we want to get to 24 [midterm victories to flip the House], winning those races will be essential.”