In a critical Michigan primary featuring two incumbent Democratic members of Congress facing off, Rep. Haley Stevens defeated Andy Levin on Tuesday night in a heated race between Jewish and pro-Israel groups.
The race between the progressive Levin, 61, who is Jewish, and the moderate Stevens, 38 – one-time cordial allies both first elected to the House in 2018 – caught the attention of political action committees (PACs) of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) and J Street. In Tuesday’s primary for the Detroit area’s 11th District, the AIPAC-PAC backed Stevens, while J Street PAC backed Levin.
"Rep. Stevens, a progressive Democrat, was backed by the AIPAC PAC and received significant financial support from leaders in our community through the AIPAC Political Portal. She becomes the 10th pro-Israel Democratic candidate we've helped this cycle to defeat a primary challenger who worked to weaken the US-Israel relationship."Betsy Berns Korn, AIPAC President
Haley Stevens: Not Jewish but pro-Israel
Stevens, who is not Jewish, has worked on Democratic presidential campaigns, and is a veteran of the Obama administration’s efforts to revive the auto industry after the 2008 recession. When it comes to Jewish issues, she is laser-focused on staunch defense of Israel against its adversaries and is skeptical of a reentry into the Iran nuclear deal.
“Tonight was a monumental victory for our community and our work together to strengthen the US-Israel relationship,” AIPAC said in a statement celebrating Stevens’ victory. “This political battle was bigger than just the candidates on the ballot: it was an opportunity to defeat a detractor of the US-Israel relationship and to strengthen support for Israel – both within the Democratic Party and in Congress overall.
“Rep. Stevens, a progressive Democrat, received significant financial support from leaders in our community through the AIPAC Political Portal,” the lobbying group said. “She becomes the 10th pro-Israel Democratic candidate we’ve helped this cycle to defeat a primary challenger who worked to weaken the US-Israel relationship.”
Andy Levin: Progressive Democrat, backed by J Street
Congressman Levin considers himself a progressive Democrat, and was endorsed by progressive groups such as J Street, and is politically aligned with Rashida Tlaib, the Detroit congresswoman who does not agree with Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state.
Other than Israel issues, there are not many differences in the voting records of the two Democrats, though Levin supports the party’s progressive agenda, like Bernie Sanders’ Medicare for All.
Levin also introduced the Two-State Solution Act. “A two-state solution is the only way to ensure Israel’s survival as a democratic state and a national home for the Jewish people, while fulfilling the Palestinian people’s legitimate aspirations for a state of their own with full respect for their political and human rights,” his website states.
Levin criticized AIPAC-PAC’s support for Stevens. “It’s not acceptable as a moral Jewish person to support people who are undermining our democracy,” he said at an event in June. “It’s not about getting endorsed by AIPAC: it’s about taking hundreds of thousands of dollars from them.”
AIPAC and J Street
AIPAC-PAC contributed $5,000 and $676,924 in direct contributions through its portal, and an additional $4.2 million through United Democracy Project, an AIPAC-linked super-PAC.
The J Street Action Fund, according to vice president of communications Logan Bayroff, spent over $700,000 to help re-elect Levin. More than $300,000 was directly contributed to his campaign via JStreet PAC.
Bayroff said that the representative was “aggressively and unfairly targeted by AIPAC and their GOP mega donor-funded Super PAC.”
J Street congratulated Levin “on a principled, hard-fought and heartfelt campaign, and... his opponent Rep. Haley Stevens on her victory.”
According to the statement issued on Tuesday night, “it is alarming that this race, like many other Democratic primaries this cycle, was heavily impacted by the aggressive outside spending of AIPAC and its SuperPAC, the United Democracy Project. They spent nearly $5 million to target and defeat Levin, far more than was spent by any other group.
“While Rep. Levin is a proudly pro-Israel Jewish-American, AIPAC smeared him as ‘anti-Israel,’ ‘fringe’ and ‘hostile,’” said J Street. “They targeted him for holding principled, mainstream views about US diplomatic leadership in the Middle East, and for proposing legislation to help uphold Palestinian rights and secure Israel’s future as a democratic homeland for the Jewish people.”
JTA/Ron Kampeas contributed to this report.