National Roundup 05-10: NJ Gubernatorial Hopefuls Debate Day After Christie; Republican Jewish Activist Announces Bid Against Rep. Schneider;
The following is a round-up of national news from several major states across the country that will be featured on our site on a daily basis:
At First New Jersey Governor Debates, Parties Differ on Policy and in Tone: After months of a campaign fought largely in town halls and mailboxes and on scattered commercial airwaves, the candidates for governor of New Jersey met here at Stockton University on Tuesday for the first televised primary debates.
In a Democratic debate that was more peaceful than acrid, the candidates transitioned from making biting opening statements to standing in unison in support of legalizing marijuana, supporting alternative energy sources such as wind turbines, paying for the entire school funding formula, investing in the state’s failing infrastructure and countering President Trump. One of the few divisive moments in the Democratic debate came as Phil Murphy, a former Goldman Sachs executive and ambassador to Germany who is leading comfortably in early polling, offered his proposal of a public bank, run by the state, as a method to combat unemployment.
John Wisniewski, a state assemblyman, countered: “A state bank for New Jersey would be a disaster. If Mr. Murphy wants to create a state bank, maybe he should go back to Wall Street.” Jim Johnson, a former undersecretary of the United States Treasury, said, “We cannot adopt Wall Street gimmicks to address Main Street problems.”
On the Republican side, Jack Ciattarelli, a state assemblymen, kicked off the debate with a blunt warning, and harsher blame. “We’re on the brink, and you all know the crisis: They ruined our economy and punished New Jerseyans every single day,” Mr. Ciattarelli said, adding: “Kim Guadagno and the Christie administration had seven-plus years to fix New Jersey. They just haven’t been able to get it done.”
Ms. Guadagno, the lieutenant governor and the other Republican candidate at the debate, found herself in the delicate dance she has performed for most of her nascent campaign: embracing the few successes of her tenure with Mr. Christie at the helm while frequently pointing out where she disagreed with the governor. She said that she was “not a climate denier” and that the current Republican plan in Congress to repeal the Affordable Care Act was a “disaster.” But she also said she opposed the gas tax. [NYTimes]
Agudath Israel Files Illegal Discrimination Lawsuit Against New Jersey Township: Agudath Israel of America and W R Property, a property owner in Jackson, have filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in New Jersey against the Township of Jackson, New Jersey, challenging new Jackson zoning regulations, asserting that they are intended to prevent Orthodox Jews from opening schools or dormitories in Jackson. The suit alleges that the regulations were enacted with the express purpose of such anti-Orthodox discrimination, and are in clear violation of Federal law.
The ordinances that are being challenged in Federal court were passed this March by the Town Council of Jackson, which borders Lakewood, in an area where many Orthodox Jews live. The lawsuit contends that the regulations were clearly motivated by a desire to prevent Orthodox Jews from moving to Jackson, and “ by discriminatory animus against the Orthodox Jewish community .”
The suit cites a number of examples of such animus, expressed by public officials and by vocal segments of the public. Last year former Township Council President Rob Nixon called an Agudath Israel leader ’s suggestion that Orthodox Jews consider Jackson as a place to live “reprehensible.” Nixon went so far as to file a complaint against the Agudath Israel leader with the U.S. Justice Department and the New Jersey Attorney General’s office, both of which saw no merit to Nixon’s complaint. [JP]
Republican Jewish Activist Announces Congressional Bid Against Schneider: After three straight identical match-ups in races for the 10th Congressional district, the 2018 election will feature a new challenger. Kenilworth Republican Bob Dold has decided not to challenge Deerfield Democratic Rep. Brad Schneider in a forth consecutive race to recapture his former North Shore seat, according to his spokesperson.
Stepping up to challenge for the Republican nomination, Highland Park activist and lawyer Jeremy Wynes, 37, announced his candidacy Tuesday. According to his campaign biography, Wynes originally intended to pursue a career in law enforcement, but instead became a lawyer after being inspired by an internship with the public defender’s office. After two years in private practice as a lawyer, he went to work for the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC).
In 2014, Wynes launched the Chicago office of the Republican Jewish Coalition, where he “helped lead the fight in Illinois against the disastrous Iran nuclear deal, efforts to isolate our allies and empower our adversaries, and the dangerous foreign policy of an America that leads from behind on the world stage,” his campaign said. The Wynes campaign announcement called Schneider “one of the most underperforming Democrats in the country,” and points out Republicans have won each of the last 10 midterm elections in the district.
Schneider issued a response to Wynes’ announcement, saying “There will be plenty of time for campaigns next year, and I look forward to a rigorous debate on the issues at that time.” [PATCH]
Pritzker Gets Boost in Gubernatorial Race: The Illinois AFL-CIO is preparing to endorse J.B. Pritzker for governor, three sources confirmed to POLITICO. It is a major coup for Pritzker, who formally joined the primary race just four-and-a-half weeks ago and is looking to coalesce Democratic support. It follows an all-out effort by Pritzker and supporters to secure the early labor commitment.
Last week, POLITICO first reported that 14 trade unions were lining up behind Pritzker. An endorsement by the AFL-CIO, which represents nearly 900,000 members and has 1,500 affiliates statewide, could present a considerable blow to opponent Chris Kennedy, who has said he hoped to fund his run through a combination of labor money and his own contributions. The sources said Democrats and labor groups who are eager to oust incumbent GOP Gov. Bruce Rauner from office are hoping to stave off a protracted, bruising Democratic primary.
Pritzker, a billionaire businessman, has said he would fund his own campaign. He has already launched a $1.5-million TV ad, the first Democrat in the race to be on air. Pritzker backs a $15 minimum wage and a graduated income tax in Illinois. Those stances, as well as his ability to self-fund, are appealing to labor groups who have spent millions of dollars combating Rauner’s campaign spending over the last few cycles. Democrats who support Pritzker say there’s a segment of the party that believes that money is better spent defending down-ticket Democrats, including fighting to keep majorities in the General Assembly. [PlaybookIL]
Idaho Inmates Sue State Prison Service for Kosher Meals: A federal lawsuit has been filed on behalf of four Jewish prisoners in Idaho jails who are seeking kosher meals.
The suit filed last week by the American Civil Liberties Union of Idaho requests a preliminary injunction against the state’s Department of Correction that would require the department to procure the kosher meals immediately, the Idaho Statesman reported. It also says the prison service is violating the prisoners’ constitutional rights to free exercise of religion and to equal protection.
The four inmates come from various streams of Judaism, ranging from Orthodox to Reform, according to the report. Two of the plaintiffs ate only fruit and matzah last month because they were not provided with kosher for Passover meals, the ACLU told the newspaper.
Idaho inmates can now choose a “common fare” option, which separates dairy and meat but is not a certified kosher food. Other options include a health-choice diet, with reduced calories, fat, sodium and sugar, vegetarian and vegan meals, and a non-pork diet. [JTA]
Florida Legislature Approves Security Funds For Jewish Schools: Teach Florida, a project of the Orthodox Union, secured a historic victory for Jewish schools in the 2017-18 Florida state budget, which allocates $645,000 to enhance security in Jewish day schools.
This is the first time that the state of Florida has allocated security funds to Jewish schools, which face urgent security concerns in the face of rising anti-Semitism across the country. Teach Florida helped draft the legislation and advocated strongly for its passage. Teach Florida also advocated for expanding tax credit scholarships for nonpublic school students. The 2017-2018 budge will increase elementary school scholarships by nearly $500 and high school scholarships by more than $1,000 per student.
“We are extremely grateful to Governor Rick Scott, Senator Lauren Book, Representative Randy Fine, and all the members of the Florida legislature for making security for Jewish schools a priority in this year’s budget,” said Mimi Jankovits, executive director of Teach Florida. “Security is a public good, and we appreciate that Florida’s elected officials have stepped up to help safeguard our students.” [JP]