Haaretz: Democrats Target GOP Candidates With Ties to Far-right and Antisemitism

August 17, 2022

By Ben Samuels
Read the full article here

Jewish Democrats are spotlighting extremism among Republican candidates in new campaign ads, as focus shifts from primaries to November’s midterm elections

As primary season winds down and attention shifts to November’s midterm elections, Jewish Democrats are aiming to highlight Republican candidates’ ties to white supremacism and antisemitism in hopes of swaying independent voters.

Josh Shapiro, the Democratic nominee for Pennsylvania governor, spent over $1 million on two TV ads highlighting Republican rival Doug Mastriano’s ties to Gab – the social media platform known as a haven for far-right extremists and white supremacists.

One of the ads, entitled “Minutes,” notes how the assailant behind the deadly 2018 Tree of Life synagogue shooting in Pittsburgh posted on Gab moments before the attack. Another ad, entitled “Real Threat,” highlights Pennsylvania’s Jewish leaders calling on Mastriano to cut ties with Gab.

The Republican candidate, a retired army colonel, paid Gab $5,000 for “consulting services” in April, with subsequent reporting indicating that those payments appeared to be tied to new followers. “Thank God for what you’ve done,” Mastriano told Gab CEO Andrew Torba prior to his victory in the GOP primary in May.

While Mastriano has since said that neither Gab nor Torba speak for his campaign and that he rejects antisemitism, Torba has not let up – most recently calling Shapiro an “antichrist” and saying that he prays daily for the Jewish Democrat’s conversion.

The Jewish Democratic Council of America, meanwhile, is launching its first significant push into the general election. The organization’s super PAC is launching a $50,000 campaign aimed at independent Jewish voters in swing states, highlighting the Republican Party’s ties to white nationalism and antisemitism.

“Donald Trump unleashed extremism and political violence in America, inciting January 6 – an attempted coup aided by insurrectionist Republicans,” adding that “every single Republican voted against investigating neo-Nazis in the military.”

“Today’s Republican Party: white nationalism, antisemitism, extremists taking away our freedoms. Electing Democrats is how we stop them,” the ad concludes.

The ad is being launched in Arizona, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, New Hampshire, Nevada, Georgia and Florida – seven states with highly competitive senate and gubernatorial races.

“JDCA has one of the largest lists of Jewish voters across the country who will determine the outcome of competitive elections,” says the organization’s CEO, Halie Soifer. “Primary season is winding down and we’re entering the general election. This ad intends to send a message to Jewish independent voters that they should support Democrats up and down the ballot.”

Links to white supremacists

The Republican Senate candidates in each of these states all support abortion bans and have lent credence to conspiracy theories relating to the 2020 presidential election results. Some of them were also directly implicated in the Capitol insurrection on January 6.

Blake Masters in Arizona has criticized U.S. involvement in World War I, linking its entry to the “houses of Morgan and Rothschild,” and has promoted conspiracy theories while being linked to prominent white supremacists. Masters is the one Senate candidate in question that the Republican Jewish Coalition has not endorsed.

Herschel Walker in Georgia defended a donor’s use of a swastika ahead of a fundraiser last year, before canceling amid widespread criticism. The RJC endorsed Walker citing his opponent Sen. Raphael Warnock, who they deem “far left and one of the most anti-Israel Democrats in Congress.”

Sen. Marco Rubio in Florida recently joined the ranks of senior Republican lawmakers to cite George Soros as a cause for violent crime in America. The RJC endorsed Rubio on the grounds that he has led on issues that are “top priority for pro-Israel voters,” including leading opposition to reopening the U.S. Consulate in Jerusalem, which served the city’s Palestinians and was shuttered by then-President Trump in 2018.

Adam Laxalt in Nevada has promoted the “great replacement theory” that immigration is meant to dilute the white population in order to recreate society – a far-right conspiracy theory cited by the mass shooter who killed 10 people at a Buffalo supermarket in May.
The RJC endorsed Laxalt citing Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto’s support from J Street, similarly backing Mehmet Oz in Pennsylvania over J Street’s endorsement of John Fetterman.

To the ire of the U.S. Jewish establishment, Sen. Ron Johnson in Wisconsin held up Deborah Lipstadt’s nomination as antisemitism envoy for nearly a year, after she criticized his remarks on race as trafficking in white supremacy. The RJC endorsed Johnson due to his role as a “stalwart pro-Israel leader and a fierce critic of the Obama/Biden Iran nuclear deals.”

“We know these are issues of great concern to Jewish voters, and that it’s a bipartisan concern. We’ve done polling to demonstrate that Jews, including independent or Republican voters, are concerned about threats to our security,” Soifer says. “There’s a direct correlation between those who threaten our community through white supremacy or antisemitic ideology and those who threaten our democracy,” she adds.

The digital ad is an open-web ad that will target hundreds of thousands of independent Jewish voters on their devices. This strategy stands in stark contrast to those employed by AIPAC’s United Democracy Project super PAC, which spent millions of dollars on expensive, traditional mediums such as TV.

“We are targeting voters where they are – on their devices,” Soifer says. “This is the most effective and efficient way to communicate with voters, and open-web ads target voters wherever they are online. We know they will see this.”

The Jewish Democratic Council will continue its political organizing, which includes phone and text banks, with its 15 state chapters in conjunction with the initial $50,000 ad buy, and will increase its spend from there.

“In these races, the Democratic candidates align with Jewish values and the Republicans align with the party’s extremist wing – that’s the message we’re sending here,” she says, adding that the organization plans on running more than 10 ads, including ones targeting specific candidates.

Its ad launch comes as the National Republican Senatorial Committee is cutting nearly $13.5 million in ad spending after GOP nominees failed to raise enough, requiring a reallocated budget. Soifer says this reflects a shift in momentum sparked by the Supreme Court’s June decision to overturn Roe v. Wade.

“We know the races will be close, especially in these purple states. The Jewish vote is going to make a critical difference and we intend to ensure that Jewish voters – especially independent voters that can decide the outcome of elections – support Democrats,” she sums up.