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 in search of 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 first all but assures him a seat in Congress.
“People were convinced by the financial efforts to discredit ― or not less than challenge ― Edwards’ experience,” said Chryl Laird, a professor of politics on the University of Maryland. “Such a strategy of questioning the commitment of the one that’s running based off of their prior practice was of interest to the constituencies on 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 greater 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 opposite groups’ spending. Edwards also benefited from the near-universal backing of progressive elected officials and groups, and a spread of former colleagues that included House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.).
But ultimately the larger sums of cash in Ivey’s corner carried the day, partially because Edwards’ tenure in Congress gave the pro-Israel groups material to attract 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 within 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 essential topics, Ivey downplayed the large help he received from AIPAC and its allies. He didn’t concentrate on his Middle East policy views, including his initial opposition to the Iran nuclear deal, and insisted to HuffPost that he didn’t owe anything to AIPAC.
He did, nevertheless, claim that the message of their advertisements was accurate.
“She’s admitted she had problems [with constituent services],” Ivey said. “And that’s an enormous piece of what members of Congress do.”