CHICAGO: Arab Americans held their own in Michigan’s primary elections on Aug. 2, but it was a Jewish American congressman who was ousted there by a massive $12 million funded campaign by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) that targeted several incumbents and candidates.
Jewish Congressman Andy Levin, the son of a former Congressman Sandy Levin and nephew of former Senator Carl Levin, was forced to run in a new district as a result of remapping last year, and lost Tuesday.
Despite his well-known surname, Levin lost to Congresswoman Haley Stevens in part because he was targeted by AIPAC, which was angered by his support of both Israeli and Palestinian interests.
But long-time Michigan political consultant and pollster Dennis Denno told Arab News that AIPAC’s money wasn’t the real factor that caused his loss, but rather it was his decision to challenge Stevens in a year when women candidates are seeing a surge in their popularity.
“Haley Stevens was kind of a celebrity with Michigan Democrats. She flipped a Republican congressional seat. And she takes credit with helping with the auto bailout under President Obama. So that was unfortunate for Democrats because you had two congressionals getting merged into one district,” said Denno, explaining the battle in the newly drawn 11th Congressional District during an appearance on The Ray Hanania Radio Show.
“A lot of Democrats were frustrated if not bitter with Andy Levin because he could have run in that Carl Marlinga-John James seat (10th District) and could have avoided this really ugly expensive primary because he wanted to run in Oakland County.”
Denno added: “Andy Levin was kind of more, for a lack of a better word, moderate with regards to Middle East policies. The pro-Israel and AIPAC groups beat him up over that. … I saw a lot of the mail and I saw a lot of the TV ads (attacking Levin). One you had Haley Stevens, she is a woman, so she has got that bounce and I didn’t see how Andy Levin was going to break through.”
But Levin chose not to run in the 10th District where Palestinian American activists Huwaida Arraf announced her candidacy. Arraf was also targeted by AIPAC but Denno said he didn’t believe she could overcome the popularity and name recognition that fueled Carl Marlinga’s election victory there on Tuesday.
Stevens won 60 percent or 70,478 votes in the new 11th District while Levin only took 40 percent or 47,117 votes, according to unofficial election returns from Wednesday morning.
In the 10th District, Marlinga won on his high-profile name recognition, securing 48 percent of the vote in a field of five Democratic candidates, including Arraf, who ran fourth with 13 percent support.
Marlinga served nearly 40 years as Macomb County prosecutor, assistant US attorney and judge on the 16th Judicial Circuit Court and Probate Court. Oakland and Macomb counties have always represented the heart of innovation and hard work in Michigan.
Denno said the new 10th District leans Republican and despite Marlinga’s primary victory, he faces a tough race in November against John James who ran twice as a Republican for the Michigan Senate.
“Carl Marlinga was the only one who had name ID. I really like Carl Marlinga. He is a great guy. He has been in politics since forever. There have been some questions in his past. But I just think it was very difficult for anyone to take out Carl Marlinga in that Democratic Primary,” Denno said of Arraf’s challenge.
“That being said, it is going to be very difficult for Carl Marlinga to take out the Republican John James who ran for Senate two times and almost won in both of those elections. I think Carl Marlinga is going to have an uphill battle.”
Denno said he expects Michigan to lean Democratic in the upcoming November General Elections, noting the strong performance of Palestinian Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib, who was also a major target of the AIPAC campaign to unseat or block Arab candidates. Michigan shows that women candidates in the Democratic Party will have an edge going into the November elections in part because of the high-profile battle over abortion rights.
“Some of Donald Trump’s candidates did really well, and some didn’t. I think the other thing is, again, female candidates did really well. Female candidates start off with a one to three point advantage, and I think that has been proven over and over again,” Denno said, saying that Trump will be an albatross on Michigan Republicans rather than an advantage.
“(Rashida Tlaib) did really well in a brand new district for her. She is a national name. I did a little work for her opponent Janice Winfrey who is a nice person. But no offense to Janice, she was kind of a second-tier candidate. There really wasn’t that strong candidate that was needed to challenge Rashida. And Rashida works really hard. She raised a lot of money.”
Tlaib’s previous district was majority Detroit but her new 12th district includes Dearborn, Dearborn Heights and more Arab American voters than before. Tlaib won with 64 percent or 61,401 votes in a field of four candidates. Winfrey ran second with 22 percent or 21,577 votes.
The Ray Hanania Show is broadcast live every Wednesday at 5:00 p.m. EST on WNZK AM 690 radio in Greater Detroit including parts of Ohio, and WDMV AM 700 radio in Washington, D.C. including parts of Virginia and Maryland. The show is rebroadcast on Thursdays at 7:00 a.m. in Detroit on WNZK AM 690 and in Chicago at 12 noon on WNWI AM 1080.
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