Norpac backing Lieberman despite his primary loss

Norpac backing Lieberman despite his primary loss

After his primary loss in Connecticut last week to political newcomer Ned Lamont, Sen. Joe Lieberman is rallying supporters to his independent run, and an Englewood-based, pro-Israel political action committee continues to raise money for what Lieberman calls his "Joementum."

"We intend to support the senator," said Ben Chouake, president of Norpac. "We think he’s the best person for the job and he’s an incumbent."

As for Lamont, a Connecticut cable TV mogul, Chouake does not know much more about him other than the company he keeps. The Revs. Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton stood behind Lamont — physically and politically — last week as the votes were counted.

"It gives me little comfort to know that he’s endorsed by Al Sharpton, Jesse Jackson, and John Zogby," Chouake said. "I really have no idea how he’s going to be on U.S.-Israel relations. He has no history of it."

Leading up to the primary election, Norpac had raised approximately $’00,000 for Lieberman’s campaign. Fund-raising efforts will continue, Chouake said. Election law permits a maximum donation of $’,’00 from an individual through a political action committee. Despite Norpac’s New Jersey headquarters, Chouake said its members know enough people in Connecticut to make calls and continue fund-raising efforts. "We’re not primarily a grass-roots get-out-the vote group. We’re primarily a fund-raising group. To that end, we’ll assist [Lieberman] in any way we can."

A Lamont adviser said his candidate shares Jewish values and that if Jewish voters look at a broad range of issues, they’ll like what they learn about the political newcomer.

"On civil rights, civil liberties, and war and peace issues, Jews in Connecticut, like those in most places, are more liberal than other voters," said David Pudlin, a former Connecticut House majority leader who is a paid consultant to Lamont’s campaign. "Ned shares those views."

Marvin Lender, a Connecticut resident and chairman of the Israel Policy Forum, said Lamont would have a solid voting record on issues of importance to Jews, but would be less effective as a policy-maker because of Lieberman’s long involvement in the Middle East.

"The Lieberman-Lamont primary wasn’t about Jewish issues," Lender stressed. "Lamont would do all the right things with respect to Israel, and no one has led me to believe he doesn’t care about these issues," said Lender, who is backing Lieberman’s independent candidacy.

Ary Freilich of Englewood has a special relationship with Lieberman — he’s his brother-in-law. Freilich, a partner in Blumberg & Freilich Equities, stands behind his sister Hadassah’s husband and believes Connecticut still does as well.

"I believe a majority of Connecticut residents would rather have Lieberman as their senator than Lamont," he said. He noted that Lieberman lost the primary only by 3.5 percent of the vote. "He has a substantial following in Connecticut — we shall see what occurs."

It is a mistake to believe that the Jewish community has been in lockstep with Lieberman up to now, Freilich added. "There were some Jews who had difficulty with some of his positions," he said, as there were also some groups of Jews uncomfortable with Lieberman’s level of observance.

"One of the good things that has come out of this country’s Lieberman experience is that it has grown up a bit," Freilich said. "It has become far more comfortable with Jewishness being in the public arena. A significant body of Jews are going to conclude that it’s very important to have allies such as Joe Lieberman in the Senate and they will circle the wagons a bit and come to support him."

Claude R. Marx, who writes a political column for the Eagle-Tribune in North Andover, Mass., and who wrote about Lieberman for JTA, contributed to this report.

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