Rep. Haley Stevens (D-MI) defeated fellow incumbent Rep. Andy Levin (D-MI) in Michigan’s 11th congressional district in suburban Detroit in Tuesday’s primary, after the issue of Levin’s hostility to Israel became a defining issue in the contest.
The two incumbents, both in their second terms in Congress, were pitted against each other after new district boundaries made Levin’s district in Oakland County more favorable to Republicans, and he challenged Stevens rather than defending his seat.
Levin is also the nephew of former Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI), who represented the state in Washington for nearly four decades.
Among other statements critical of Israel, Levin proudly led opposition to then-President Donald Trump’s peace plan for the Middle East, which subsequently led to the signing of the Abraham Accords between Israel and several Arab states.
Stevens defeated Levin by a wide margin, winning nearly 60% of the vote, according to recent returns at the Detroit News.
The Jewish Telegraphic Agency reported on the primary, in which millions of dollars were spent by outside interest groups:
In addition to ending a Michigan Jewish political dynasty that has lasted since Levin’s uncle Carl was elected to the Senate in 1979, Levin’s loss means the wing of the Democratic party that is most critical of Israel is losing its most outspoken Jewish ally in the House of Representatives.
Levin, who was backed by J Street, the liberal pro-Israel lobby, is vocally critical of Israel and authored a “Two-State Solution Act” this session that would restrict how Israel could use U.S. aid, has been in AIPAC’s crosshairs. AIPAC’s former director David Victor, a Detroit resident, called Levin “arguably the most corrosive member of Congress to the U.S.-Israel relationship.” He also said in a letter to prospective donors in January that “less engaged Democratic colleagues may take [Levin] at his word” on Israel because of his Jewish credentials.
In the waning days of his campaign, rather than try to win over the voters that AIPAC had sought to mobilize, Levin instead drew attention to his Israel politics. He held a rally with Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and Rep. Rashida Tlaib and did a virtual event with Peter Beinart of Jewish Currents, three figures who are critical of Israel and its treatment of the Palestinians and largely despised by the hardline pro-Israel crowd.
Levin, described by the World Jewish Daily news website as “Israel-hating,” had the support of J Street, a radical, left-wing organization initially backed by George Soros which often opposes the Israeli government and is widely seen as anti-Israel.
J Street’s super PAC, the J Street Action Fund, spent $700,000 on a television ad attacking Stevens for taking donations linked to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), one of the most prominent pro-Israel groups in Washington.
The ad criticized AIPAC for supporting Republicans who had supported Trump’s effort to contest the 2020 presidential election. AIPAC, which only recently began spending directly on political campaigns, has always been supportive of incumbents from either party who support Israel in Congress, usually regardless of their stance on other issues.
AIPAC’s own super PAC, the United Democracy Project, spent heavily in the primary to support Stevens and to defeat Levin.
In a statement on the result of the primary election, J Street complained about AIPAC’s involvement, and lamented: “While Rep. Levin is a proudly pro-Israel Jewish-American, AIPAC smeared him as ‘anti-Israel,’ ‘fringe’ and ‘hostile.’ They targeted him for holding principled, mainstream views about US diplomatic leadership in the Middle East, and for proposing legislation to help uphold Palestinian rights and secure Israel’s future as a democratic homeland for the Jewish people.”
Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News and the host of Breitbart News Sunday on Sirius XM Patriot on Sunday evenings from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. ET (4 p.m. to 7 p.m. PT). He is the author of the recent e-book, Neither Free nor Fair: The 2020 U.S. Presidential Election. His recent book, RED NOVEMBER, tells the story of the 2020 Democratic presidential primary from a conservative perspective. He is a winner of the 2018 Robert Novak Journalism Alumni Fellowship. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.