Nina Turner is beaten by Shontel Brown and pro-Israel forces in Ohio primary

Progressive leader Nina Turner was defeated in the closely-watched Ohio primary for Congress tonight by establishment candidate Shontel Brown, according to reports in the media. The victory is a big win for the pro-Israel lobby inside the Democratic Party– and a blow to the insurgent left wing in the party.

Turner conceded the race at about 10 p.m., saying, “On this night, we will not cross the river.” Brown was leading in the returns by about 5 percent.

Turner blamed her defeat on outside financial contributions to her opponent. “I am going to work hard to ensure that something like this doesn’t happen to another progressive candidate again. We didn’t lose this race, evil money manipulated and maligned this election,” she reportedly said.

Turner, 53, had been co-chair of Bernie Sanders’s presidential campaign and is a leading advocate for poor and working class voters. She supported conditioning military aid to Israel, in stark contrast to Brown, 46, chair of the Democratic committee for Cuyahoga County, who embraced Israel in her campaign and was rewarded with substantial donations from pro-Israel groups.

The race was viewed by many as another showdown between the Democratic party establishment and its left flank. Brown was backed by a number of big-name centrists, including Hillary Clinton and House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn, while Turner was endorsed by progressive lawmakers like Reps. Ilhan Omar, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Rashida Tlaib and of course Senator Bernie Sanders.

Brown sought to cast the race as a loyalty contest for Joe Biden.

While Israel was seldom mentioned in mainstream coverage, it was certainly a component of the race. While not a public supporter of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement (BDS), Turner has consistently defended the right to boycott. After Israel attacked Gaza this spring, she tweeted support for Palestine.

In contrast Brown positioned herself as a staunch supporter of the Israel. She condemned the BDS movement, opposed calls to condition military aid, and referred to the country as a “bustling democracy.” During the attack on Gaza, that killed almost 70 children, she asserted that Israel has the “right to defend itself.”

Brown was endorsed by a number of pro-Israel lobbying groups, including Democratic Majority for Israel (DMFI). DMFI (which was founded by Yair Lapid’s strategic adviser Mark Mellman) spent over $1 million trying to stop Turner, although their attack ads never actually mentioned foreign policy at all. Instead the group consistently claimed that Turner had been insufficiently loyal to the Democratic party.

Republican Bill Kristol formerly of the (disbanded) Emergency Committee for Israel, also endorsed endorsed Brown.

Democratic Majority for Israel exulted in Brown’s win tonight. Though as it had throughout the campaign, it called itself “DMFI PAC,” understanding that the Israel issue is not very popular.

At The Intercept Matthew Cunningham-Cook reported that much of the money funneled into DMFI’s political action committee came from GOP donors. “As a Democrat who has helped Democrats all over the state, we cannot condone Democrats that are accepting money associated with Trump,” State Rep. Juanita Brent told The Intercept. “How can we have someone who is the party chair and says that she’s a Democrat’s Democrat but is accepting Republican money?”

Brown’s win comes amid a rocky summer for pro-Israel groups like DMFI. Last month Ben & Jerry’s announced it would stop selling ice cream in illegal Israeli settlements, a move that has sent Israeli lawmakers and the country’s U.S. supporters into a hysterical tailspin. The company has been denounced as antisemitic, their decision equated with terrorism, and politicians have vowed to punish it.

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