Pro-Israel groups claim victory in US primary election
Pro-Israel groups have claimed victory in the Democratic primary for Maryland's fourth Congressional district, after spending millions of dollars in recent months to back their preferred candidate.
Former prosecutor Glenn Ivey defeated ex-congresswoman Donna Edwards after the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (Aipac) and allied groups waded into the race.
Ivey claimed victory late on Wednesday after an Associated Press tally said he had clinched 51.2 percent of the votes compared to Edwards' 35.2 percent, with 68 percent of the votes tallied.
Mail-in ballots cannot be counted until Thursday, and the gap in the vote count was great enough that Edwards would be unable to close it.
"I am humbled and honored by the confidence of the voters of the Fourth District," Ivey said in a tweet to his supporters.
The hotly contested race had garnered national attention as a result of outside money infiltrating the intraparty contest.
Ivey's campaign was supported by around $6m in spending by the United Democracy Project (UDP), a Super PAC affiliated with the American-Israel Public Affairs Committee (Aipac), and more than $425,000 from Democratic Majority for Israel (DMFI).
The large sums gave Ivey the resources to be competitive with the much better-known Edwards, who had backing from major Democratic figures including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and powerful advocacy groups such as EMILY's List.
The primary race had focused little on US-Israeli relations, with Ivey running on his background as a former top prosecutor in the area, discussing issues like public safety while promising to focus on inflation and high gas prices.
The more than $4m dollars in ads that UDP ran against Edwards didn't focus on her past positions on Israel, instead touching on local issues such as what the group claimed were poor services for constituents during her time in office.
During her time in Congress between 2008 and 2017, Edwards angered some pro-Israel groups by failing to support Israel on multiple bills and for backing the Obama administration's 2015 nuclear deal with Iran when it was strongly opposed by the Israeli government.
Aipac warns Democrats
Shortly before Ivey claimed victory, Aipac warned other Democratic contenders not to criticise Israeli policies - or risk a well-funded campaign against them.
"Once again, Democratic voters have demonstrated that being pro-Israel is smart policy and smart politics," Aipac said.
"With solid support from the pro-Israel community, Glenn Ivey defeated a detractor of the US-Israel relationship who was heavily backed by some of the most vocal and persistent critics of the Jewish state."
The liberal pro-Israel group, J Street, which backed Edwards, said it was "extremely alarmed" by Aipac's role in deciding Democratic races.
"They targeted [Edwards] for defeat simply for holding principled, mainstream Democratic views about US diplomatic leadership in the Middle East, while their spokespeople baselessly smeared her as ‘anti-Israel’. It's a deeply harmful trend we’ve seen again and again in this cycle."
Last month, Marie Newman, a first-term lawmaker who gained a reputation as one of the most vocal pro-Palestinian lawmakers in the Democratic caucus, was defeated by Sean Casten, a centre-left Democratic. It was an incumbent-to-incumbent face-off in a redrawn congressional district for the 6th District in Illinois.
According to Jewish Insider, DMFI spent around $540,000 opposing Newman and supporting Casten.
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