Is there such a thing as a Jewish vote? Are Jewish voters and candidates influenced by the values of Torah, or do other issues get in the way? What are the critical issues in 2010, and where do some of the Jewish candidates in the election stand on them?
According to John C. Green, Ph.D., senior fellow with The Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life, “Jews are no more likely to vote for someone who is Jewish than someone from another religion. Far more important to Jews is the candidate’s stance on the issues. Jews are far more likely to be Democrats and are more liberal on social issues, so you’d expect they would prefer a liberal candidate.”
Jews care deeply about support for Israel, reproductive choice, environmental issues, and the economy, said David Harris, president and CEO of the National Jewish Democratic Council (NJDC). Jews do not vote for Jewish candidates because they are Jews, said Matthew Brooks, executive director of the Republican Jewish Coalition (RJC).
A Gallup tracking poll finds age a significant factor in Jewish voting patterns. Orthodox Jews, who represent the fastest growing segment of the Jewish community, tend to be more conservative politically than less observant Jews. With age, the difference between Jewish and non-Jewish voting patterns widens. The 10-point gap between Jews and non-Jews supporting President Obama in 2008 doubles among voters ages 35 to 54 and becomes a 30-point margin among older voters.
Fast-forward to California in 2010. Jewish candidates in Orange County are making a case for issues such as education and the economy. Many of the candidates have been involved in the Jewish community.
Marcia Milchiker, longterm Governing Board Member of the South Orange County Community College District, Trustee Area 5, is running for re-election. Founder and president of the California Elected Women’s Association for Education and Research, Milchiker is running on a platform of maintaining fiscal responsibility, top-tier academics, cutting-edge vocational education, lifelong learning, and educational accessibility in the district. During her tenure, she helped to institute paramedic training, national accreditation for nursing and child care programs, computer centers, web-based academic planning, online instruction, student e-mail, short-term classes, technology centers, virtual reality job training, business – industry partnerships, digital labs, guaranteed transfer to the University of California, honors program, weekend college, distance learning, internet and telephone registration, and library automation.
“Through outstanding conservative fiscal management, we are debt free and have no unfunded public employee pension liability,” Milchiker said. “Our nursing program is ranked # 1 in the nation. We have increased our superb class offerings and programs. Our colleges have the highest transfer rates among all community colleges.”
Milchiker is no stranger to service in the Jewish community, having been a founder of the first Jewish Community Center of Orange County and Camp Haverim; serving on the board of directors of Jewish Federation Orange County’s Women’s Division, Anti-Defamation League, American Jewish Committee, AIPAC, and SCORT. She received the Dani Award from SCORT and, along with her husband, the Family of the Year Award from Jewish Family Service.
In the 48th Congresional District, Beth Krom, who first won a seat on the Irvine City Council in 2000, served two terms as mayor of Irvine, and now holds a council seat again, is running against incumbent John Campbell.
“The Jewish community is where I learned to be a leader. Now I want to take that leadership to Washington,” said Krom, who founded the Irvine Kadima Group of Hadassah, received the Woman of Distinction Award from Hadassah Southern California in 2003, was a Merage JCC Celebration Ball honoree in 2005, was a Morasha Day School Builder of the Community recipient in 2007, received Shining Star Recognition from Congregation B’nai Israel in 2010, and was named to “The Ten to Watch in 2010” by the Jewish Daily Forward.
According to Krom, the district has “one of the most diverse and dynamic economic bases in America, driven by key employment sectors such as high tech, biotech, clean tech, green tech, automotive design, financial services, and hospitality. Education is also a major economic stimulant in the 48th, supporting a well-trained workforce and attracting businesses with high national and international profile.”
The national economic crisis since the Great Depression has had a tremendous impact on hard-working families in the 48th District, Krom said. She believes that “we need to stimulate all sectors of the economy through smart, strategic deployment of federal resources. We must also protect consumers by reforming our financial system and demanding greater accountability from all the stakeholders who participate in our markets and who drive our economy.”
California’s 70th Assembly District is currently represented by Republican Chuck DeVore. In November, voters will decide on DeVore’s replacement between Democrat Melissa Fox, Republican Don Wagner, and Libertarian Debbie Tharp.
Melissa Fox was born in Garden Grove and raised in Westminster. Commitment to public service comes naturally to Fox — her mother was a registered nurse and a librarian and her father was a police officer, a compliance officer with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and a Korean War combat veteran. Fox attended Hebrew Academy, then went to Brandeis University and Tulane University School of Law. After law school, Fox returned to Orange County, where for the last 17 years she has specialized in providing legal counsel to small businesses.
“Together we can put education first, bring jobs and economic development to our district, and renew the California dream,” Fox said. A champion of “tax fairness,” she “will fight hard to cut taxes for those who need it most: California’s small businesses and middle class.”
Some candidates see one specific need and try to fill it. For instance, Richard E. Baron is running for a seat on the Irvine Ranch Water District in order to oppose water and sewer rate increases after nine consecutive years of increases. “Considering the economic times and the Irvine Ranch Water District’s enormous surplus (over 1 billion dollars); I believe it is inappropriate to impose further increases on the ratepayers,” he said.
Baron invented, patented, and developed various water saving products. He is a member of the Community Association Institute and the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary.
May the best candidates win.