Kathy Manning, former JFNA chief, mounts congressional run in North Carolina


Randall Kaplan, chairman of the board of Hillel, and Kathy Manning, chairwoman of Jewish Federations of North America, attend a fund-raiser in Palm Beach, March 8, 2010. (Courtesy of Hillel)

WASHINGTON (JTA) — Kathy Manning, the first woman to be chair of the Jewish Federations of North America, is mounting a challenge as a Democrat to a right-wing Republican congressman in a district encompassing her hometown, Greensboro, N.C.

Manning is challenging Ted Budd in North Carolina’s 13th district, a once reliable Democratic district that trends Republican after recent redistricting.

Manning, a former immigration lawyer who is well known in her district for her philanthropy, announced her bid on Wednesday to run in the Democratic primary. Budd was prepared for her announcement, having purchased the domain name, kathymanningforcongress.com. “Kathy Manning is an establishment Democrat insider who’s worked for decades alongside far-left Democrats including Hillary Clinton, Nancy Pelosi, Barbara Boxer, John Edwards, and Barack Obama,” said the site, which solicited donations for Budd’s reelection.

“I didn’t expect dirty tricks before I even announced,” Manning told the News-Observer newspaper on Wednesday. “If Ted Budd wants to spend his time playing political tricks instead of doing his job, that’s his choice.”

Manning, 60, has been feted multiple times for her firsts. In addition to chairing JFNA from 2009-2012, she was the founding chairwoman of Prizmah, the umbrella body for Jewish day schools of all denominations. At Harvard in the 1970s, she founded the university’s first all-woman a capella group, the Radcliffe Pitches, which still exists.

In an interview with JTA, Manning acknowledged a tough fight ahead in a district that voted for President Donald Trump over Hillary Clinton 53-44 percent last year.

She said she would focus on job creation, and noted her experience locally working to provide mortgage relief and other assistance to the newly jobless.

“A lot of people in this community who know me know my values, know what I stand for,” she said. “The rest, I’ll knock on doors. I want to listen to what their concerns are, what keeps them up at nights.”

“I was raised with the understanding that I have an obligation to give back,” she said. She paraphrased Pirkei Avot, or Ethics of the Fathers, a book of rabbinic wisdom: “You know the phrase from our sages, ‘It’s not our obligation to complete the work, but neither are we free from the obligation to get it started.”

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