Ever since the major Democratic contest between Reps. Donna Edwards and Chris Van Hollen began for Maryland’s open Senate seat, both campaigns have been wondering who the major liberal Jewish lobby organization J Street would end up helping in the race.
On Wednesday, they got their answer: Both.
Dan Kalik, vice president of political affairs for J Street, said Van Hollen has been awarded its “On The Street” designation, a seal of approval that came only a couple of months after it gave the same nod to Edwards.
“By giving both of them the ‘On The Street’ designation, it’s a signal that both of them are in line with our core issues,” Kalik said, adding that the endorsement allows the group’s members to contribute to either candidate from J Street’s political action committee.
The Jewish population, which makes up between 4 and 5 percent of the state's population, is a major base of support both financially and at the ballot box Maryland Democratic primaries, Kalik said.
Erik Dorey, the spokesman for Van Hollen’s campaign, said in an email, “Chris is deeply grateful for the support he’s hearing from across the Jewish community in Maryland, a reflection of his unwavering commitment to both the security of Israel and the unbreakable bonds between Israel and the U.S.”
Dorey called the group’s nod an “endorsement,” but Jessica Rosenblum, a spokeswoman for J Street, said its announcement shouldn’t be seen as such for either candidate.
“We don’t endorse in competitive primaries,” she said. “We’re not actively raising money as we would for fully endorsed candidates, but with this, we’re allowing supporters to give money to them.”
If another candidate were to get into the race, such as Rep. Elijah Cummings, for example, he would also be considered for their “On The Street” seal of approval, she said.
Van Hollen, who was initially wary but eventually announced his support for the Obama administration’s Iran Deal, was targeted by J Street last month with an online petition drive calling on him to back the president.
“There's no question that Chris' well-deserved reputation as a thoughtful and serious legislator — someone who weighs each issue on the merits and exercises sound judgment — is a source of strength for this campaign,” Dorey said.
Correction 9:25 p.m. An earlier version of this story misidentified Jessica Rosenblum.