WASHINGTON – With less than a week until the midterm elections, Pennsylvania is at the center of attention. Recent polls indicate a dead-heat race between Democratic candidate John Fetterman and Republican Dr. Mehmet Oz. According to “FiveThirtyEight.com,” the race is a toss-up.
With the Senate equally divided 50-50 between Democrats and Republicans, Pennsylvania’s race could determine which party will control the chamber.
Jewish political groups see the State as a key in the path to victory and are spending heavily on both Senate and House races, including on the seventh congressional district, where two Jewish candidates – Democrat incumbent Susan Wild and Republican candidate Lisa Scheller – are running against each other.
What are Republican Jewish organizations doing in Pennsylvania?
The Republican Jewish Coalition Victory Fund, for example, announced an additional $350,000 independent expenditure in the Senate race, bringing the total spending on that race to $1,850,000 - the organization's single largest-ever expenditure in a midterm election.
RJC’s Pennsylvania regional director, Scott Feigelstein, said that aside from TV ads, the group is also investing in grassroots activities to support several candidates, including Oz, Scheller, Jim Bognet, Jeremy Shaffer and Guy Ciarrocchi.
“Obviously, the Senate race is critical because the balance of power in the Senate, a lot of the experts think – and I happen to agree – runs through Pennsylvania,” said Feigelstein. “Keeping this Senate will help us win other seats elsewhere. We have been assembling a cadre of volunteers for phone banking, door knocking and literature dropping, and we’re working with our volunteers to get out the votes for November. It’s an all-hands-on-deck effort for months and months now.”
“Keeping this Senate will help us win other seats elsewhere. We have been assembling a cadre of volunteers for phone banking, door knocking and literature dropping, and we’re working with our volunteers to get out the votes for November. It’s an all-hands-on-deck effort for months and months now.”Scott Feigelstein
Asked about Jewish voters’ support, Feigelstein said the Jewish community has traditionally voted overwhelmingly Democrat, but “as we have seen over the years, that number is starting to shift.”
“Obviously, it’s not shifting fast enough or in large enough numbers to my personal satisfaction,” he continued. “But the fact is that it is starting to shift because I believe the issues are on the Republican side are more in tune with Jewish communal interests, whether it's the Israel relationship, a whole host of other issues, national security and many other issues as well.
“It is something we’re looking at and working hard to secure. And I think we’ll see some fruits of that effort bearing out in this election cycle.”
What are Democratic Jewish organizations doing in Pennsylvania?
Jill Zipin, head of Democratic Jewish Outreach Pennsylvania, said that while all races are important, the organization is specifically focused on three congressional races for the seventh, eighth and 17th districts. “They could go to either side,” she said.
“We’ve done door-knocking in Susan Wild’s district. We’re running ad campaigns throughout the state. And as we’re a political action committee, we can make contributions to candidates as well,” said Zipin.
Regarding the Senate race, Zipin admitted that it is “closer than we would like.”
“It appears to be a two or three-point race, and some have it as a five-point race,” she said. “We're doing everything in our power to make sure he [Fetterman] gets elected. In addition to the congressional candidates and Josh Shapiro as a governor.”
“We do phone banks every [week]. We have one tonight with 71 sign ups,” she said. “We are a small grassroots organization. We are a small donor organization. We don't have millions to spend, but we've done 26 ads in 13 newspapers across the state. We're doing 1.5 million digital impressions across the state. But we are a small dollar donor organization. I like to say we're small but mighty. We cannot be in the same category as the RJC or AIPAC at this point.”
“A lot of the close races are going to be won in the margins,” Zipin noted. “For example, Susan Wild’s race may come down to a few hundred votes and Jewish turnout. We have the highest turnout rate of any religious group in the United States of America. So, if Jewish voters turn out in these key congressional districts, we can make a difference.”