The audience at the Jewish Community Relations Council candidate forum did a pretty good job holding its applause and boos, as directed, but an audible grumble rose in the dark when George Athanasopoulos, a Republican running against Rep. Ed Perlmutter in Colorado’s Seventh Congressional District, said a vote for his opponent or any of the Democrats on stage would be a vote against the best interests of Israel.
“I understand where this race is and where I am in this race. I am challenging a very popular incumbent with wonderful constituent services,” he said as he began his closing argument. He promised to continue those constituent services but then pivoted to talk about an issue that featured heavily in the foreign policy portion of the forum.
“I only have 90 seconds left, so I’m going to keep it to one issue,” Athanasopoulos said.
“The Iran deal has been mentioned several times. I have said our foreign policy is broken and that Israel and the Palestinians will not know peace as long as our policy remains broken. I believe deeply that if you and other Jewish-Americans vote for Democrats, any Democrat on this stage, you are voting against the best interests of Israel and against the best interests of the men and women we send to the Middle East to fight there.”
Two of the Democrats who were on that stage — Rep. Jared Polis of Boulder and state Sen. Morgan Carroll who is running against Rep. Mike Coffman in the Sixth Congressional District — are Jewish. Perlmutter has a Jewish father. Polis and Perlmutter both voted for the Iran deal, which they saw as a necessary attempt to use diplomacy to thwart Iran’s nuclear ambitions.
Jewish voters, of course, hold a range of opinions on the Iran deal, but they vote Democratic in large numbers.
The Pew Research Center on Religion and Public Life noted that Jewish voters are “among the most strongly liberal, Democratic groups in U.S. politics.”
“There are more than twice as many self-identified Jewish liberals as conservatives, while among the general public, this balance is nearly reversed. In addition, about seven-in-ten Jews identify with or lean toward the Democratic Party,” the Pew Research Center found.
Of the 28 Jewish members of Congress, all but two are Democrats, and 19 of them supported the Iran deal, according to a tally by Jewish Telegraphic Agency.
A survey last year by the American Jewish Committee found that barely half of Jewish voters supported the Iran deal, though support was cautious and those who disapproved felt more strongly. Republicans have hoped that this dissatisfaction would open a door for them with this traditionally Democratic constituency, but the shift in voter preference doesn’t seem large.
All of that might be why the otherwise polite crowd let out some boos: They may feel they understand their own interests just fine.
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