Shontel Brown stormed back from a double-digit deficit to defeat progressive candidate Nina Turner Tuesday in the Democratic primary for an open congressional seat in Ohio.
Centrist presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden both soundly beat progressive Bernie Sanders in the district so in that regard it’s not an enormous surprise that the centrist candidate managed a comeback victory.
The Cleveland seat was vacated when the incumbent Marcia Fudge resigned to join the Biden administration as housing secretary.
Brown’s win will be celebrated by Israel supporters, who poured huge amounts of cash into the campaign to defeat Turner.
Despite national attention, turnout was reportedly low.
If, as expected, Brown wins the general election in the strongly Democratic district in November, she will hold the seat for a year. She would have to run again in the 2022 midterms when the entire House comes up for reelection.
Brown and Turner both raised significant amounts of money in what may well prove to be the most expensive special election of the year.
The race turned increasingly combative in July, pitting the centrist and anti-Palestinian Brown against Turner, a supporter of the progressive Squad who has expressed views far more open to Palestinian rights.
Brown, who was heavily supported financially by DMFI PAC, an offshoot of the lobby group Democratic Majority for Israel, can be expected to staunchly favor Israel in congress and not raise concerns about its apartheid policies.In March she tweeted her thanks to the pro-Israel organization for its endorsement, noting that “the US and Israel have a solid and unbreakable bond with shared democratic values and common interests.” That claim is belied by the fact that Israel rules over millions of Palestinians in the occupied territories who can’t vote for the Israeli regime that actually rules their lives.
Israeli human rights organization B’Tselem and Human Rights Watch have stated this year that Israel commits the crime of apartheid in all the territories it controls.
Mark Mellman, the CEO of Democratic Majority for Israel, said just before the primary that Turner is an “implacable foe of Israel and a potential leader of the anti-Israel movement.”
His PAC – political action committee – raised well over $1 million for Brown.
DMFI board member Archie Gottesman received considerable criticism earlier this year when a genocide-promoting tweet of hers calling to “burn” all of Gaza came to light. She retained her board seat with an unconvincing apology.
In Brown’s victory speech, she came across as openly sympathetic to Israeli military might being brought to bear against Palestinians in Gaza.
“When you see a person who has a firecracker that’s been dropped by a drone near the Gaza Strip, and you are within a few feet of a bomb shelter, you can appreciate the vulnerability of a state,” Brown asserted. This is an inversion of the reality of overwhelming Israeli military superiority.
She added: “That has given me the understanding of the importance of the US-Israel relationship. So I thank my Jewish brothers and sisters.” Brown appears here to think that the Jewish community is monolithic and all in support of a US-Israel relationship which for decades has advanced the dispossession and occupation of Palestinians.
She fails to note that in May alone, Israel killed some 260 Palestinians in Gaza, including more than 60 children during 11 days of relentless bombardment of the tightly besieged territory. US military weaponry, which Brown supports for Israel, was employed in that assault.Brown can also be expected to work against the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement and its efforts to secure freedom and equal rights for Palestinians.
Echoing standard Israel lobby talking points, Brown told Jewish Insider before the primary that “I also oppose the global BDS movement which uses anti-Semitic rhetoric and arguments to weaken, isolate, and delegitimize Israel.” This conflates support for equal rights and the right of return for Palestinian refugees with anti-Jewish bigotry and highlights the profound levels of anti-Palestinian racism within the Democratic Party.
Brown, who claims to support the moribund two-state solution, is an ardent backer of US military aid to Israel. She supports the $3.8 billion in annual US military aid to Israel and opposes “conditioning our aid to Israel for specific results.”
In other words, Israel can carry on with human rights abuses against Palestinians and nevertheless can expect Brown’s vote for ongoing military aid.
Turner’s political future is now uncertain. She was apparently hurt within the district by her strong denunciations of Joe Biden.
A large street billboard within the district, a photo of which was shared with The Electronic Intifada, reminded voters that she had compared voting for Biden to eating half a “bowl of shit.”
That advertisement notes it was paid for by PIA United. Passersby would be unlikely to know without a google search that PIA United is Pro-Israel America United.
Both Pro-Israel America United and DMFI PAC ran ads that raised concerns about Turner unrelated to Israel.
Support for apartheid Israel is now seen as a losing issue with Democratic voters so PACs have largely sought to highlight other issues.
Turner’s concession speech is already drawing attacks due to her reference to the role of “evil money” that “manipulated and maligned this election.”Turner was likely echoing the widespread disgust at the role of corporate donors and national PACs, which have long been seen as distorting and dictating American politics. In her case, the biggest effort to defeat her came from advocates of an apartheid regime. However, critics are already using her words to claim she was expressing a specifically anti-Jewish animus as centrist and right-wing Democrats delight in Brown’s victory over Turner.