The race to fill the seat vacated by Rep. Joe Kennedy, who is running for U.S. Senate, has produced one of the most competitive primaries in Massachusetts.
The election, which will be held on Sept. 1, features eight candidates (one recently dropped out) with Jake Auchincloss widely viewed as a frontrunner for the Massachusetts 4th District that stretches from the affluent Boston suburbs to the working-class city of Fall River in the southern portion of the state.
As a result, the Boston-born Auchincloss—a U.S. Marine veteran and city councilor in Newton, Mass.—has become a target of opponents who criticize him for his campaign’s financial backers, Republican roots, and controversial statements on race and religion.
Staking out more conservative-leaning positions than many of his opponents, Auchincloss, who is Jewish, has touted his pro-Israel credentials as part of his campaign for the Massachusetts 4th District, which features the largest Jewish community in New England.
Q: On your campaign website, you give a detailed outline of why you support Israel. In a crowded field of Democratic candidates, why are you in the best position to support Israel in Congress?
A: I grew up in the Jewish tradition and was raised with the conviction that Jews everywhere must support one another and the State of Israel in order to secure our collective well-being. As a Marine officer, I led troops in Afghanistan, so I have gained a visceral appreciation for how dangerous a neighborhood Israel exists in.
Unconditional military aid and strong bilateral security ties are essential foundations for U.S.-Israel relationship. As a manager in cybersecurity, I have seen firsthand the enormous enrichment for both the Israel and Massachusetts economies that flow from trade and technological exchange between our countries. Finally, as a city councilor in Newton, I have built coalitions around challenging issues, like housing and the environment. More than anything, the next generation of congressional leaders on the U.S.-Israel relationship must be able to build coalitions.
Q: How would you address concerns about the erosion of bipartisan support for Israel, especially within the Democratic Party, such as with Michigan Rep. Rashida Tlaib and Minnesota Rep. Ilhan Omar? In fact, one of your opponents, Ihssane Leckey, has been endorsed by Omar, along with pro-BDS/anti-Israel groups and individuals such as Jewish Voice for Peace, IfNotNow and political activist Linda Sarsour.
A: I’m a coalition-builder. On issues like immigration, gun safety and the environment, I will walk arm-in-arm with the most progressive members of Congress and build a rapport that I can then invest into widening the tent for pro-Israel support. There are red lines for me, like BDS and conditioning aid to Israel, but I’m not afraid to deliberate with members of either party in a constructive effort to retain bipartisan support. I will also work with organizations like AIPAC to promote the importance of the U.S.-Israel relationship to members of Congress who may not yet appreciate it.
Q: You mention that you have experienced anti-Semitism while serving in the Marines. After decades of seeming progress on reducing anti-Semitism, why do you think the issue has reemerged so forcefully in the past several years, and how would you work in Congress to combat it?
A: Donald Trump has fanned the flames of hatred. We have seen a concerning rise in explicit and violent anti-Semitism, as well as more implicit anti-Semitism, as is present with the BDS movement. While BDS works hard to appear benign, its objectives are clear: delegitimizing and demonizing the State of Israel. More than 90 percent of House Democrats properly joined in condemning this effort without running afoul of our sacrosanct First Amendment. I support the House resolution and [if elected to] Congress will support others like it. As a Jew and a representative for the most Jewish congressional district in Massachusetts, I will consider it my obligation to educate those in my own party about anti-Semitic tropes that are often employed in criticism of Israel and pro-Israel Jews.
Q: Why should Jewish voters support you in the upcoming primary?
A: As the great-grandson of Jews who fled pogroms in Ukraine, I have a powerful understanding of the danger Jews face in the world and the need for a Jewish state. My own Jewish community in Newton, where I became a Bar Mitzvah, has reinforced my pride in my heritage and in Eretz Yisrael. My military service has provided me with a firsthand understanding of the value of a stable, democratic partner in the Middle East. Finally, my track record as a coalition builder with moderates and progressives in Newton augurs well for my ability to build and maintain a bipartisan pro-Israel coalition in Congress.