Several Jewish Candidates Running in PA Primary


The Pennsylvania primary election is set for May 17, and among the many candidates on the ballot, several are Jewish.

Here’s a rundown of Philadelphia-area Jews who are running in prominent races.

Josh Shapiro (Courtesy of Josh Shapiro)

Josh Shapiro

The Democratic attorney general is the party’s unopposed nominee for the 2022 gubernatorial election in November.

Shapiro, a Montgomery County resident who sits down for Shabbat dinner each week with his family, is easily the most prominent Jewish candidate of the cycle. His campaign already has more than $18 million in the bank and two TV ads running on local stations. He continues to campaign in every blue and red corner of the state.

The biggest question for Shapiro on primary day is who his Republican opponent will become. Nine candidates are running for the GOP slot.

Jeff Bartos

Bartos, a Republican who lives in Montgomery County, is running for the party’s nomination in Pennsylvania’s U.S. Senate race. Incumbent senator Pat Toomey, also a Republican, is retiring at the end of this term.

On Bartos’ website, the Jewish real estate developer pitches himself as “a proven business leader” who will make “staples of middle class life,” like homeownership and health care, “more affordable.” But to do so, he will first need to emerge victorious in one of the most competitive primaries in the country.

Six other candidates are aiming for the nomination. That includes Dr. Mehmet Oz, the celebrity TV show host who recently received an endorsement from former President Donald Trump.

Ben Waxman, Ilya Breyman, Gwen Stoltz and Jonathan Lovitz 

All four of these Jewish candidates seek seats in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives.

Breyman and Stoltz are already the presumed Democratic nominees in their respective districts, PA 178 and 143, both in Bucks County. Both are running unopposed in the primary.

Ben Waxman (Courtesy of Steve Springer)

Waxman and Lovitz’s situation is the opposite. As Center City Democrats, their primary will likely be their election. If one of them wins the four-person race for the Democratic nomination in PA’s 182nd district, he should be able to win the blue district come November.

The district’s current representative, Brian Sims, is running for lieutenant governor instead of reelection. Deja Alvarez and Tyrell Brown are also running to replace Sims.

But among the four candidates, it’s Waxman who has party support. The Democratic committee people in Center City wards voted to endorse him, he said.

And that’s a big deal in a low-information race that will not receive much media coverage, according to Waxman. In an election like that, party leaders will do a lot of the work to both inform and turn out voters.

“The reality is people don’t know who their state representative is or what he does,” Waxman said. “You rely on your committee people and neighbors.”

Waxman, though, is a longtime activist, and so he’s not just depending on party leaders to spread his message about reinvigorating the local economy and protecting abortion rights. He continues to knock on doors, make calls and host events, doing the first one every day.

“A lot of people are going to decide right at the end,” he said.

Lovitz has the support of former Philadelphia mayor and Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell, the local and state AFL-CIO and other labor unions.

If he gets to Harrisburg, he wants to focus on funding for the arts, gun violence prevention and voting rights/access. The former actor also has a lengthy history as an activist for LGBTQ causes.

Lovitz, who grew up at the Jersey Shore and in Florida, is married to NBC 10 meteorologist Steve Sosna and they have lived in Philadelphia for the last five years, according to an April 2021 Jewish Exponent story about his campaign.

“This is personal to me. I’ve got skin in this game because I live here,” Lovitz told the Exponent in April of last year. “I pay taxes here, and I want to see this part of the city succeed, because this is such a beacon and role model to the rest of the commonwealth about how communities and business can coexist side by side and grow together.”

For Waxman, even if beats his Democratic opponents, he will not let up, he says. Though a win for his campaign would become likely at that point, the communications consultant would need to focus on helping other Democrats join him in Harrisburg.

Shapiro is first among them, according to Waxman. If the Roe v. Wade abortion decision is overturned by the Supreme Court as expected, the question of abortion access will go to the states.

Pennsylvania has a Democratic governor, Tom Wolf, and a Republican General Assembly. A Republican governor, instead of Shapiro, would likely align the Keystone State with the Supreme Court’s decision.

“We have to turn people out to stop this from happening,” Waxman said. “It is a motivating factor for every Democrat.”

Susan Wild and Lisa Scheller

Wild, a Jewish Democrat, represents Pennsylvania’s 7th congressional district, covering the Lehigh Valley area, in the U.S. House of Representatives. This fall, the Allentown-area resident will seek her third term in Congress.

Her opponent from the 2020 general election, Scheller, a Jewish Republican, is vying to run against Wild for the second cycle in a row. In the May 17 primary, Scheller seeks to defeat fellow Republican Kevin Dellicker.

If she succeeds, she will set up an all-Jewish rematch in the Lehigh Valley.

Scheller is the chairman and president of Silberline Manufacturing Co., which makes “a key ingredient in paints and coatings,” according to her campaign website. She “knows firsthand how red tape and radical proposals like the Green New Deal stymie our local businesses and families,” per the site. JE



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