Rep. John Hostettler at the US Capitol, 2003
Rep. John Hostettler at the US Capitol, 2003Scott J. Ferrell/Congressional Quarterly/Getty Images

A former Republican congressman in Indiana who is a longtime critic of Israel failed in his bid to return to the House of Representatives after the Republican Jewish Coalition and AIPAC mounted an effort to support his opponent.

Election returns in Indiana’s 8th district on Tuesday night showed state Senator Mark Messmer, the RJC’s favored candidate, soundly defeating John Hostettler, who represented the district in Congress from 1995-2007.

“Tonight, we succeeded in keeping a vocal anti-Israel candidate out of the Republican conference,” the RJC said Tuesday evening. “This is a major victory for the RJC, the Jewish community, for all pro-Israel Americans, and for common sense.”

The RJC had spent $1 million on ads in the district mostly promoting Messmer, said Sam Markstein, a spokesman for the group.

“The results last night make it very clear that our efforts were very effective in ensuring that a vocal anti Israel voice would not be joining the republican conference,” he said. The District leans Republican and Messmer is seen as a shoo-in in November.

Hostettler during his time in Congress was an isolationist who wrote a book after he left office blaming Jews for for the Iraq War. “Hostettler’s claim of ‘dual loyalty’ by prominent Jews repeats age-old slanders of Jewish disloyalty to their countries and outlandish notions of secret Jewish cabals pulling international strings,” Abraham Foxman, then the national director of the Anti-Defamation League, wrote at the time.

The Republican and Democratic Jewish organizations have traditionally focused on attacking candidates from the other side, but as politics related to Israel have tectonically shifted in recent years, pro-Israel affiliates of both parties are aiming fire inward. The RJC recently announced plans to target Virginia Rep. Bob Good, the chairman of the Freedom Caucus, because he led a group of 21 Republicans who opposed emergency defense funding for Israel.

The Democratic Majority for Israel has in recent years taken on Israel’s sharpest critics in the party, and was recently joined by the Jewish Democratic Council of America, which recently endorsed two opponents of members of the progressive “Squad” who have advocated cutting off aid to Israel, Reps. Jamaal Bowman of New York and Cori Bush of St. Louis.

The RJC previously worked to oust Iowa Republican Rep. Steve King, who had a history of condoning white supremacists. He lost his primary in 2020.

United Democracy Project, a political action committee affiliated with the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, also opposed Hostettler, spending about $1.5 million on negative ads. “What kind of Republican votes against supporting Israel?” one ad said.

“Regardless of party affiliation, we will support pro-Israel candidates and oppose detractors,” AIPAC said in a statement. “Our only criterion is whether the candidate stands with America’s ally, Israel, in its battle against the Iranian regime and its terrorist proxies, including Hamas and Hezbollah.”