Ben Samuels,

AIPAC’s super PAC and the Republican Jewish Coalition are pouring millions into races where Republicans have alleged anti-Israel records and often traffic in antisemitic tropes

WASHINGTON – Significant attention has been dedicated during the 2024 election cycle to pro-Israel groups’ involvement in Democratic primaries, after groups like the American Israel Public Affairs Committee and its affiliated United Democracy Project super PAC broke the mold by spending tens of millions of dollars against progressive Democrats.

But when the pro-Israel establishment’s involvement in 2024’s elections is assessed, the historical outlier may actually be its increasing involvement in Republican primaries.

AIPAC’s Super PAC has fine-tuned its approach during this cycle – including discretely backing other super PACs and keeping its powder dry for higher-profile races – but has largely not undertaken the predicted $100-million effort aimed at unseating high-profile progressive Democratic incumbents (though it has spent over $4 million hoping to unseat Rep. Jamaal Bowman in New York next month and will come close to matching that soon after in a similar bid at unseating Rep. Cori Bush in Missouri).

Yet both AIPAC and the Republican Jewish Coalition bucked historical trends earlier this month when their multimillion-dollar spending campaign helped prevent former Rep. John Hostettler from winning his district’s primary in Indiana. Explaining their involvement, both organizations explicitly cited his alleged anti-Israel record and decades-long rhetoric of trafficking in antisemitic tropes.

Hostettler’s, however, is not the only Republican primary in which the pro-Israel groups are involved.

Their involvement in such races can be broken down into two categories: defending GOP incumbents against challengers representing the party’s fringe; and targeting incumbents who are jeopardizing the stalwart support the party has offered Israel in recent years.

In the former category, earlier this month the Republican Jewish Coalition rallied behind Reps. Carol Miller in West Virginia and Don Bacon in Nebraska – both of whom faced what the organization described as “extremist” candidates.

Election 2024 West Virginia Denialism
Republican Rep. Carol Miller, who defeated January 6 insurrectionist Derrick Evans in her West Virginia primary earlier this month.Credit: Patrick Semansky/AP

Miller defeated challenger and January 6 insurrectionist Derrick Evanswho told far-right media personality Stew Peters in February that “it’s a good question to ask” whether “Jews stole the election” in 2020. He also agreed with Peters that it was not “over the line to draw the conclusion that Israel had a whole lot to do with January 6.”

Bacon, meanwhile, defeated Dan Frei, who earned the support of populist party members and described himself as an “America First conservative.”

“Reps. Miller and Bacon are both fierce advocates for their constituents and strong allies to the Jewish community and America’s key strategic partner, Israel. We are proud to stand with them. Let there be no doubt: if you don’t stand with the Jewish community, if you don’t stand with Israel, the RJC will work to defeat you,” said RJC National Chair Norm Coleman and CEO Matt Brooks after the results were declared in mid-May.

Election 2024 Nebraska GOP
Republican Rep. Don Bacon, who defeated “America First conservative” Dan Frei in Nebraska this month.Credit: J. Scott Applewhite/AP

Most significant test

The coalition’s support of Republican incumbents will face its most significant test of the primary season on Tuesday, during a House runoff in Texas when Rep. Tony Gonzales will face off against challenger Brandon Herrera.

Gonzales, whose district includes the site of the May 2022 Uvalde elementary school mass shooting, earned the ire of many Republicans – including a censure from the Texas Republican Party – after he lent support to a bipartisan gun safety bill that would have tightened background checks for people under age 21.

While Gonzales – who leads the Latino Jewish Caucus and the bipartisan caucus for veterans serving in the House – outperformed several challengers during the state’s primary earlier this year, he failed to earn 50 percent of the vote, thus setting up a clash with his closest rival: a 28-year-old social media influencer whose videos include jokes about the Nazis and the Holocaust.

Election 2024 Texas Runoff
Republican Rep. Tony Gonzales in the U.S. Capitol, July 2022.Credit: Tom Williams/AP

In one video from 2022, first reported by Jewish Insider, Herrera displayed an MP-40 submachine gun – developed in and widely used by Nazi Germany. He referred to it as “the original ghetto blaster,” alluding to the Nazis’ killing of Jews.

The video also included a montage of Herrera and another person firing the weapon, goose-stepping and showing off other Nazi weaponry, all to the soundtrack of the song “Erika” – a Nazi marching song that has seen frequent use in modern neo-Nazi and far-right propaganda.

His associate then donned camouflage outfit with colors resembling a pattern used by the Waffen SS and beginning a Hitler salute, before being stopped by Herrera.

The challenger has also publicly come out against providing supplemental military aid to Israel – a matter that led both AIPAC and the RJC to cease campaign fundraising for 15 previously endorsed incumbent Republicans who are running for reelection.

“I would absolutely vote AGAINST the new proposed spending package for $95+ billion for foreign conflicts, while spending $0 on our southern border,” Herrera posted on X. “Any Republican who claims to be America first CANNOT vote for America last legislation. Why is it the US’ responsibility to pay?”

“We can’t claim to be ‘America First’ while pushing spending bills like the most recent foreign aid package that gave almost $100 billion to every country except the US,” he added. “We have massive problems here we HAVE to address before we spend another dime trying to fix the world.”

Both the United Democracy Project and Republican Jewish Coalition have entered the fray, spending millions in a bid to ensure Herrera doesn’t successfully defeat Gonzales.

The super PAC, which is spending $1.06 million against Herrera, is running an ad noting that he “glorifies Nazis and mocks the Holocaust – now Brandon Herrera is running for Congress? That joke would be on all of us.”

Like the Hostettler ad, this ad differs from United Democracy Project’s traditional attack ads against progressive Democrats, which tend to focus on domestic policies that have nothing to do with Israel.

This has been one of the key points of criticism among Democrats toward AIPAC: they accuse its super PAC of deliberately misleading voters while hiding from engaging with Israel policy.

The Republican Jewish Coalition, which lauds Gonzales for “going to bat for critical joint U.S.-Israel missile defense programs and [being] a stalwart defender of the U.S.-Israel relationship,” similarly launched a $400,000 ad buy in hopes of helping him defeat Herrera.

“Herrera is a goose-stepping extremist who pals around with online Nazis, and has promised to join the ‘chaos caucus’ that has frustrated the efforts of the GOP majority in the House to pass essential legislation. As we’ve said all cycle: if you stand against the Jewish community, if you stand against America’s strategic ally Israel, the RJC will work to defeat you,” said Coleman and Brooks.

Its ad, unlike the UDP ad’s explicit mention of his apparent Nazi homage, focused on how Herrera recently moved to Texas from North Carolina and joked about veteran suicide.

While Tuesday’s Gonzales-Herrera race is front of mind, the biggest intraparty battle with significance for Republican-Jewish voters will follow three weeks later in Virginia, on June 18.

Shortly after the House emergency aid vote in April, the Republican Jewish Coalition formally endorsed John McGuire, who is challenging House Freedom Caucus chair Rep. Bob Good.

According to Brooks, Good “shamefully voted against this critical support for the Jewish state, abandoning Israel as it continues to fight for its very survival after the worst massacre of Jews since the Holocaust. This vote showed who Israel’s true friends are, and exposed those like Congressman Bob Good who are not.”

Brooks noted that for the pro-Israel community, “this is not the first time concerns have been raised about Rep. Bob Good’s undermining of U.S. support for Israel: Good also voted against passage of an Israel aid bill in February, and he opposed a defense authorization bill that included important funding for joint U.S.-Israel defense programs, including Iron Dome.”

Brooks lauded McGuire as “a conservative stalwart who made his support for Israel clear, stating: ‘Israel is under attack and deserves our support. Congress should be unequivocal in supporting Israel with the resources it needs in this ongoing fight against terrorism.'”

Good is notably endorsing Herrera, after previously endorsing Evans and Frei in their failed bids to unseat Miller and Bacon. He is, however, not the only incumbent that has faced opposition from pro-Israel groups this cycle.

A future race in mind

The United Democracy Project recently spent nearly $320,000 in ads against Rep. Thomas Massie, the Kentucky Republican who has long been at the center of pro-Israel and Jewish groups’ ire over his consistent no-votes against Israel and combating antisemitism, in addition to his own remarks that frequently flirt with anti-Jewish tropes.

It previously targeted Massie following October 7 with $90,000 in attack ads, though took out the new buy shortly before last week’s primary (which he won without significant challenge). accusing him of “standing in the way” of Republican efforts to assist Israel.

“Everyone who cares about the Holy Land needs to know: Tom Massie is hostile to Israel,” the ad stated.

While the ads ran before the primary, they were very likely purchased with a future race in mind: the battle to replace Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell in 2026.

Massie – who most recently was one of three House Republicans to vote against a highly contentious bill repudiating the Biden administration for halting an arms shipment to Israel – has increased his attacks on AIPAC, saying it needs to register as a foreign agent. He also accused it this month of running the unrelated evangelical group Christians United for Israel as “a brand specifically for Christians.”

AIPAC, meanwhile, insisted that it was “not playing” in Massie’s primary, saying instead that it was “shining a spotlight on his atrocious anti-Israel record and making sure every Kentuckian knows that he votes with Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar against pro-Israel bills.”



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