Pro-Israel candidate beats Squad-backed rival in Ohio Democratic primary

Shontel Brown is now all but assured of a Congressional seat in her heavily Jewish and Democratic Cleveland district.

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

In a microcosm of the battle between the progressive and moderate wings of the Democratic party, a pro-Israel centrist won her party’s primary for a Congressional seat over a far-left rival in a come-from-behind victory Tuesday in Cleveland, Ohio.

Shontel Brown, an African-American who headed the Democratic party in the state’s second-most populous county, campaigned as a supporter of President Joe Biden as well as Israel in her heavily-Jewish 11th district.  As the district is overwhelmingly Democratic, she is now all but assured a win in the special election that had been called when her mentor, Rep. Marcia Fudge, left her seat open to become Secretary of Housing and Urban Development in the new administration.

Fudge backed Brown, as did House Majority Whip James Clyburn, former secretary of state Hillary Clinton, and the non-partisan Congressional Black Caucus. Several pro-Israel and centrist Jewish PACs also raised money and aggressively pushed for Brown, including the Jewish Democratic Council of America (JDCA), the Democratic Majority for Israel (DMFI), and Pro-Israel America.

The reason for their hard work was the support being given to Brown’s opponent and former state senator, Nina Turner, by members of the progressive wing of the party, who are considered anti-Biden as well as anti-Israel. Turner, also an African American, had been the co-chair of Vermont Independent Bernie Sanders’ 2020 presidential campaign. She had spoken vociferously against Biden during Sanders’ unsuccessful run for the nomination, and the senator campaigned heavily for him across the district.

She was also backed by the so-called Squad, the most radical members of the Democratic party in the House of Representatives, who are trying to push the party leftward both socially and politically. In her concession speech, Turner specifically thanked the Squad’s leader, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), “whom I have worked with for years,” for her endorsement.

In a possibly anti-Semitic crack regarding the kind of support Brown had received, Turner also said, “We didn’t lose this race. Evil money manipulated and maligned in this election.”

In contrast, Brown is a firm supporter of the president, has good ties with the local Jewish community and is pro-Israel, which she even mentioned in her victory speech.

“When you walk within a few feet of a bomb shelter, you can appreciate the vulnerability of a state, and that has given me the understanding of the U.S.-Israel relationship and I thank my Jewish brethren,” she said in a short clip posted to Twitter by Jewish Insider.

JDCA head Halie Soifer took credit for the impressive support Brown received from the Jewish community to overturn the heavy lead Turner had enjoyed throughout most of the campaign. In her congratulatory statement to the candidate, she said, that “JDCA reached 22,000 Jewish voters in the district over 100 times each” through phone, email and text messages. The result was that “Voter turnout in areas with large Jewish populations was – on average – double the overall turnout in the district. Specifically, OH-11 turnout was 16.8%, and turnout in heavily Jewish areas of the district was 25-31%.”