Itamar Gelbman, the only Israeli running for US Congress, is expected to face an uphill battle in Tuesday’s Texas Republican primary.
Gelbman is running in the state’s sixth district outside Dallas against three candidates, including incumbent Joe Barton, who was first elected in 1984 and has never won reelection with less than 60 percent of the vote.
Barton is expected to win the most votes, but if he does not win 51% in the primary, he must face off against his top challenger in a run-off race. Gelbman’s goal is to beat the other challengers and force a run-off.
“It seems like I am doing better than the other challengers,” Gelbman told The Jerusalem Post in a phone interview from the campaign trail. “I have more yard signs and more volunteers even though [the other candidates] spent three times as much.”
Gelbman downplayed a poll his challenger Barton took at the beginning of May that indicated that he had a lead of 50 percentage points over the rest of the field. He noted that after Barton paid for the poll, he immediately spent a huge sum on ads and campaigned more than he had before.
“His behavior proved his press release about the 50% lead was a big lie,” Gelbman said. “Why would he spend so much on ads if he is doing so well in the race?” Gelbman was born in New York 30 years ago and as a child moved with his parents to Herzliya, where he was raised. He studied business management and computer science at Tel Aviv University and served in the Tel Aviv Police Department and the IDF before moving to Texas.
Barton received a boost Thursday when US House Majority leader Eric Cantor, the only Republican Jewish representative, came to Texas to campaign for him. Gelbman dismissed Cantor’s endorsement, saying that incumbents always help each other.
Gelbman spent the day before the race, which was Memorial Day in the US, attending ceremonies at cemeteries and visiting polling stations to make sure his signs were up.
When asked what his chances of victory were, he declined to give a number.
“All I will say is that I have a very good chance,” he said.