Jewish Candidates Largely Thrive in Pennsylvania Primary


No matter what year it is or which crisis of legitimacy we’re shouting through, politicians are going to politician. This is true for candidates on both sides and from all backgrounds.

It’s both party and identity neutral.

But since we are the Jewish Exponent and the Greater Philadelphia area’s source for Jewish news, we will focus on Jewish politicians.

Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro was the most prominent Jewish candidate on the primary ballot on May 17. And even in a Democratic primary for the gubernatorial nomination in which he did not have an opponent, Shapiro managed to be a total politician.

His campaign paid for and ran a television ad promoting Doug Mastriano as the Republican candidate for governor of Pennsylvania. Mastriano is a QAnon supporter and Jan. 6 insurrectionist who in April spoke at a conference that promoted conspiracy theories. One alleged that Adolf Hitler faked his death, according to a Philadelphia Inquirer story from that month.

Shapiro wants to run against Mastriano. So, like a true politician, the attorney general promoted Mastriano’s primary campaign and perhaps helped him win. Then, in a campaign email to supporters, the AG called Mastriano a “dangerous extremist who wants to take away our freedoms” and “restrict the right to vote.”

It is surely not lost on Shapiro that, thanks in part to his own ad, this “dangerous extremist” now has a much better chance, about 50-50, to impose his agenda on Pennsylvanians across the Commonwealth.

Politicians. They will always politician.

Now let’s get to the rest of the results involving local Jewish candidates.

The Republican Primary for PA’s Open U.S. Senate Seat

Incumbent U.S. Senator for Pennsylvania Pat Toomey, a Republican, is retiring from his seat after two terms. Toomey, who voted to impeach former President Donald Trump after the Jan. 6, 2021 insurrection, is on the record as an enemy of the GOP’s kingmaker.

In this battle to replace Toomey as the Republican nominee, Jewish Montgomery County resident Jeff Bartos joined the crowded field. While the race may be headed for a recount, Bartos is not a competitor for the top spot.

Mehmet Oz, Dave McCormick and Kathy Barnette all got more than 300,000 votes in the first count, with Oz, Trump’s preferred candidate, ahead by a small margin. Bartos received fewer than 70,000 votes.

The Democratic Primary for Pennsylvania’s 182nd State House Seat

This very blue district’s representative, Brian Sims, is running for lieutenant governor, leaving his seat open. Four candidates, Ben Waxman, Jonathan Lovitz, Will Gross and Deja Alvarez, vied to replace him. Three, Waxman, Lovitz and Gross, are Jewish.

Ben Waxman and his wife Julie Wertheimer. (Photo by Arielle Cohen)

But it was Waxman who came out on top with more than 5,000 votes and 40% of the total. The Center City resident had party support and the endorsement of Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner.

Lovitz finished second with more than 2,700 votes and 20% support. Gross placed fourth, five votes behind Alvarez.

“It just feels good to have your friends and neighbors support you,” Waxman said.

Waxman, who used to work for Krasner as a communications staffer, acknowledged that he is likely to win the general election this fall. But he still hopes to increase turnout on the Democratic side and help Shapiro beat Mastriano.

The longtime political activist said he’s given more money to Shapiro than “I’ve given any politician ever.”

“I am petrified of Mastriano,” Waxman added. “He represents a clear and present danger, and he is mobilizing the far right.”

The Democratic primaries for PA House seats in two Bucks County districts

Plumstead Township resident Gwen Stoltz, 47, and Holland resident Ilya Breyman, 37, ran unopposed in Democratic primaries for Pennsylvania House seats in districts 143 and 178, respectively.

Stoltz will run against Republican incumbent Shelby Labs in the fall, who she claims is not responsive to constituents in her Central and Upper Bucks County territory. Breyman will face Republican Kristin Marcell in November. The GOP incumbent in Breyman’s district, Wendi Thomas, is not running for reelection.

Both Jewish candidates are seeking their first terms in the Pennsylvania General Assembly.

Democratic and Republican primaries for nominations in PA’s 7th Congressional District

Jewish Democrat Susan Wild holds the seat representing the Lehigh Valley in the U.S. House. She ran unopposed in the primary and will seek her third term in November.

Jewish Republican Lisa Scheller, the chair and president of her family’s Silberline Manufacturing Co., is now running against Wild for the second consecutive cycle. Scheller defeated fellow Republican Kevin Dellicker by less than 2,000 votes in the May 17 election.

She lost to Wild by about 14,000 votes in 2020. JE


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