Pro-Israel organizations are celebrating victory in another battle against J Street as former Prince George’s County state’s attorney Glenn Ivey defeated former Rep. Donna Edwards for the Democratic nomination for Maryland’s 4th Congressional District.
Ivey won with 51.2% of the primary vote to Edwards’s 35.1%, with former Maryland House of Delegates member Angela Angel coming in third with 6%.
Ivey is set to run later this year for the open, largely black suburb vacated by Rep. Anthony Brown (D-Md.) against Republican primary winner Jeff Warner, a pastor.
The race for the safe Democratic district was seen as a proxy war between pro-Israel organizations such as the liberal J Street, which supported Edwards, versus organizations such as AIPAC, Democratic Majority for Israel (DMFI) and Pro-Israel America (PIA), which all backed Ivey.
“We are proud to have helped pro-Israel progressive Democrat Glenn Ivey defeat his anti-Israel opponent,” AIPAC tweeted on Wednesday. “Being pro-Israel is good policy and good politics.”
“We proudly support pro-Israel progressive leaders who don’t check their values at the door when it comes to standing with Israel—a U.S. ally and liberal democracy that champions justice and equality,” the organization said in an earlier tweet.
AIPAC PAC spent $5.9 million in the race, supporting Ivey, according to The New York Times. The AIPAC-affiliated super PAC, the United Democracy Project, spent just under $6 million running ads and phone banks supporting Ivey and opposing Edwards.
Opposition to Edwards’s candidacy stems from her first stint in Congress from 2008 until vacating her seat to compete in a failed bid for Senate in 2016.
In Congress, according to The Washington Post, she would regularly avoid signing on to AIPAC-backed letters and resolutions, and voted “present” on a number of pro-Israel legislation. Edwards voted “present” on a 2009 bill endorsing Israel’s right to defend itself against rocket attacks from Hamas in the Gaza Strip, despite support for the bill being near unanimous. She voted present on a resolution supporting direct negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians, and on a 2012 bill to enhance security cooperation between Israel and the United States. In 2013, she was one of 20 House members to vote against strengthening sanctions on Iran.
‘Dramatic new trend in politics’
“Pro-Israel America congratulates Glenn Ivey on his primary victory in Maryland’s 4th congressional district,” PIA executive director Jeff Mendelsohn, whose organization endorsed Ivey, said in a statement. “Ivey’s victory once again demonstrates that strong pro-Israel stances are both good policy and politics, as his commitment to advancing the U.S.-Israel relationship starkly contrasted with the positions of the candidate he defeated.”
In a news release, DMFI PAC chairman Mark Mellman said that his PAC was proud to have endorsed Ivey and “undertaken an extensive independent expenditure on his behalf.”
“We’re pleased that Democratic voters in Maryland’s 4th District chose to look forward by electing a proud progressive pro-Israel African-American leader with extensive experience on Capitol Hill and in local government, Glenn Ivey,” Mellman wrote after the victory.
DMFI supported Ivey with more than $426,000 in TV and digital ads.
J Street said that it was disappointed by the results, but still congratulated Ivey on his victory. The organization spent about $720,000 to boost Edwards.
In a statement, J Street’s vice president of public affairs Kevin Rachlin slammed AIPAC and UDP for flooding the race with money, outspending Edwards’s campaign by seven-to-one and spending nearly $7 million to oppose her.
“They targeted her for defeat simply for holding principled, mainstream Democratic views about U.S. diplomatic leadership in the Middle East, while their spokespeople baselessly smeared her as ‘anti-Israel.’ It’s a deeply harmful trend we’ve seen again and again in this cycle,” he wrote.
Rachlin also attacked AIPAC, which is bipartisan, for supporting Republican candidates, including those who voted against certifying U.S. President Joe Biden’s election victory, and receiving funding from Republican donors.
“It’s extremely harmful to the Democratic Party when a group that endorses over 100 Republicans who voted to overturn the 2020 election on January 6 and that is funded in part by Republican billionaires spends seemingly unlimited sums of money to decisively shape the outcome of Democratic primaries,” he wrote. “Democratic voters deserve to know that a Republican-aligned group with right-wing foreign-policy views is pouring millions into Democratic primaries, yet far too many remain in the dark about this dramatic new trend in our politics.”
Similar proxy wars have played out in races throughout the country, including in the Michigan primaries in August.