Former prosecutor Glenn Ivey won the hotly contested Democratic primary on Tuesday for a House seat in Washington’s Maryland suburbs, delivering a win for pro-Israel groups that spent heavily on his behalf and a stinging defeat for progressives supporting his rival.
Ivey dispatched with former Rep. Donna Edwards, a progressive stalwart seeking a second stint in Congress after ceding her seat in a failed run for the Senate in 2016.
Maryland’s 4th Congressional District ― centered in Prince George’s County, a predominantly Black area ― is overwhelmingly Democratic. Ivey’s victory in the primary all but assures him a seat in Congress.
“People were convinced by the financial efforts to discredit ― or at least challenge ― Edwards’ experience,” said Chryl Laird, a professor of politics at the University of Maryland. “This type of strategy of questioning the commitment of the person who’s running based off of their prior practice was of interest to the constituencies in this district.”
Specifically, massive spending by two pro-Israel super PACs gave Ivey an edge over Edwards, who takes a more left-leaning approach to U.S.-Israel policy than Ivey.
United Democracy Project, which is aligned with the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, spent about $6 million to elect Ivey. And Democratic Majority for Israel spent more than $425,000 to elect Ivey.
The super PAC of a more liberal pro-Israel group, J Street, spent $660,000 in support of Edwards to offset the other groups’ spending. Edwards also benefited from the near-universal backing of progressive elected officials and groups, and a range of former colleagues that included House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.).
But ultimately the larger sums of money in Ivey’s corner carried the day, in part because Edwards’ tenure in Congress gave the pro-Israel groups material to draw from.
A TV spot funded by United Democracy Project focused on Edwards’ alleged ineffectiveness as a lawmaker, quoting a Washington Post editorial endorsing her opponent in the 2016 Senate primary that said Edwards’ office was “notorious for inattention to constituent services.”
In a district with few voters for whom Israelis or Palestinians are important topics, Ivey downplayed the massive help he received from AIPAC and its allies. He did not focus on his Middle East policy views, including his initial opposition to the Iran nuclear deal, and insisted to HuffPost that he did not owe anything to AIPAC.
He did, however, claim that the message in their advertisements was accurate.
“She’s admitted she had problems [with constituent services],” Ivey said. “And that’s a big piece of what members of Congress do.”