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In 2002, two African American members of Congress were challenged based on their position on Israel. Both Earl Hilliard (AL-07) and Cynthia McKinney (GA-04) were defeated by candidates seen as more Pro-Israel.

In 2008, Donna Edwards (MD-04), with the help of national progressive interests, knocked off Al Wynn portraying him as a very entrenched Washington insider. However, Edwards after only one term may join Hilliard and McKinney as being opposed by the Pro-Israel lobby.

I'm not so sure that you can compare Edwards to Hilliard and McKinney that easily. Edwards seems to have a very progressive agenda and a unique style and I don't see this being that much of an issue. (more below)

Reasons that Edwards might be targeted by the Pro-Israel lobby

"The relationship between the Jewish community and Donna Edwards got off to a rocky start," said Ron Halber, executive director of the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Washington. "I would be lying if I told you there wasn’t concern."

At issue is Edwards’ support for Israel. Jewish leaders say tensions began to rise in January, when the House voted on a nonbinding resolution "recognizing Israel’s right to defend itself against attacks from Gaza" and condemning Hamas for its attacks on the Jewish state.

The resolution, introduced by Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio), passed 390-5 with overwhelming bipartisan support. But Edwards balked at supporting the measure, joining 21 other members who voted "present."

Interestingly, one of the other 21 members voting present was Hank Johnson (who defeated McKinney in her 2nd tour of duty in Congress).

Hilliard and McKinney each had unique problems unrelated to the Israel issue.

Hilliard had several other ethical concerns concerning his frequent overseas travel and rebuke for serious campaign finance violations.

The committee found three separate violations, all involving expenditures that were not for legitimate campaign purposes:

# From April 1993 through March 1994, the Hilliard for Congress Campaign made at least nine loans totaling $16,205 to three individuals. Two of the recipients were employed in the lawmaker's district offices. # From July 1992 through August 1996 the campaign paid salary and benefits to three individuals working both for the campaign and the private companies. The three "routinely performed administrative, secretarial, bookkeeping and other services" for three private companies, the committee found. # From approximately 1993 through 1996, campaign funds were converted to personal use by Hilliard and used to pay rent and utility costs for the Hilliard family corporations.

McKinney, on the other hand, is known to have a very combative personality. Her father blamed "Jews" for her defeat in 2002. In 2004, She had a well-known altercation with a Capitol Police officer and also criticized a staffer on-air. McKinney also elevated her tone with the U.S. - Israel relationship to what many describe as full blown anti-semitic rhetoric.

Fast forward to 2010 - Earl Hilliard Jr (son of Earl Hilliard Sr) will be a candidate for a vacancy in the AL-07 congressional district. I'm supporting another candidate in this race, Shelia Smoot who aims to be the first African American female elected to Congress from the State of Alabama.

Conclusion

I've met Edwards and I do not find her combative, abrasive and have certainly not heard of her being the target of unethical complaints. I do not agree with her stance on this particular vote; however, from all other accounts I think she is a good representative of this district. I do not think either Hilliard or McKinney would have been netroots favorites back in 2002.

I haven't run a full analysis, but the only concern for Edwards might be what has been estimated to be a 15% Jewish constituency in this suburban Washington D.C s district. Hilliard's Jewish constituency was minimal and McKinney's Atlanta based district probably hovered well under 5%.

Originally posted to alpolitics on Tue Jun 02, 2009 at 04:46 PM PDT.

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