North Texas Jewish Democratic Council aims to mobilize DFW
By James Russell
Special to the TJP
Janice Schwarz is a Jewish Democrat.
But unlike some, the longtime Dallas Democratic activist is proud to say it.
About 70 percent of Jews voted for former President Obama in 2012. Around 64 percent of Jews say they are Democrats, according to the Pew Research Center’s 2014 Religious Landscape Study. Yet Jewish Republicans tend to be more outspoken about their partisan identity.
“They paint Jewish Democrats as anti-Israel, which they are not,” Schwarz said.
The North Texas Jewish Democratic Council, which kicked off Oct. 29 at the home of Bob Franklin and Lenna Webb, seeks to make more people become like Schwarz, or at least get more Jews involved in local and state Democratic politics.
It is not that Jews are not active in politics. But currently no Democratic Jewish officials serve at the state level.
In fact, in the last cycle former Far North Richardson Democrats President Laura Irvin tried when she ran and lost against Koop. It was believed to be the only general election race featuring two Jewish candidates from both parties. Irvin has since moved to Ohio.
While that group includes a number of Jewish members, this club is different: a club created by and for Jews. (Schwarz said they would not turn away non-Jews, however.)
So there is another goal: increasing the local dearth of Jewish Democratic officials.
Plenty attended the event, including judges Carl Ginsberg and Mark Greenberg. Two candidates for office attended as well: Sam Johnson, who is running to succeed retiring Republican U.S. Rep. Sam Johnson (who is not related), and Brian Chaput, who is running for Texas senate District 8. Both districts are in reliably red Collin County. The candidates expect an uphill battle.
But the candidates may have some help from a former Republican in the NTJDC leadership. Larry Strauss left the party after strong disagreements with President Donald Trump. With the help of his friend and Democratic activist Warren Harmel and the Dallas County Democratic Party, the duo met Schwarz.
“After the Republican Party, with a majority in both houses, had no plan in place and failed to unite in repealing and replacing Obamacare, I was so disgusted, I called the Dallas County Democratic Party and the North Texas Democratic Council was born,” Strauss said.
The club is the first of its kind in the region.
Another prominent Jewish Democrat, Marc Stanley of Dallas, spoke about his new group. The Jewish Democratic Council of America was launched in July after President Donald Trump refused to denounce a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, which left one person dead.
The group succeeds the now defunct National Jewish Democratic Council. Stanley and former U.S. Rep. Martin Frost of Dallas served on that board until it folded this past year.
Stanley shared with the TJP on Tuesday, why he helped spearhead the Jewish Democratic Council of America.
“I have long been involved in Democratic Party politics, and felt that the Jewish community needed a strong formal voice in the party. This became particularly true as we saw Donald Trump, both during the presidential campaign and since taking office, pandering to anti-Semitic and racist groups. Unfortunately, we are seeing the fanning of racism, anti-Semitism, homophobia and xenophobia — all of which are antithetical to my beliefs as a Jew. And, too many of the people inside and adjacent to this White House are a part of it. So many of the policies we see today in the White House and Congress go against the progressive beliefs that I and most other Jews hold dear.”
Stanley, a council member of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum and chairman of the Legacy Senior Communities, spoke about the JDCA’s goals.
“Through this new organization, we can ensure that lawmakers and candidates know where we stand, and that we support those with similar beliefs. Additionally, JDCA will fight for a strong U.S.-Israel relationship, working to ensure that the Democratic Party strongly supports the Jewish state and that Israel continues to be the bipartisan issue it long has been.”
Stanley also told the gathering about the importance of mobilizing Jewish Democrats to impact the 2018 and 2020 elections and influence local and state elections.
They have reason to be interested. Statewide, Democrats consider a majority of the Republicans in the Dallas County delegation to the legislature top targets. Along with Linda Koop, Democrats are targeting Reps. Jason Villalba of Dallas, Rodney Anderson of Grand Prairie, Matt Rinaldi of Irving and Morgan Meyer of Highland Park. Republican State Sen. Don Huffines of Highland Park is also seen as vulnerable.
One opportunity under consideration is a candidate forum for competitive districts like Congressional District 32, represented by U.S. Rep. Pete Sessions. Democrats see the Dallas Republican, who defeated Frost, as a top target this cycle. Democratic candidate for president Hillary Clinton narrowly carried the district.
“It’s important to have Jewish Democratic representation. Democrats represent Jewish values,” Schwarz said.
They just need to get involved.
Contact Janice Schwarz at email@example.com or 214-460-7283 for questions about the local group.