The Republican Jewish Coalition is hitting television airwaves in Central Virginia in a bid to derail a Democratic congressional candidate with a history of criticizing Israel.

The RJC, which has played in very few midterm election contests, told the Washington Examiner that it had purchased $300,000 of broadcast and cable television time in Charlottesville and Roanoke to run a spot targeting Leslie Cockburn, the Democratic nominee in the open 5th Congressional District. Cockburn, a journalist and documentary filmmaker, is, along with her husband, co-author of the book, Dangerous Liaison: The Inside Story of the U.S.-Israeli Covert Relationship.

That, and other aspects of Cockburn’s career, alarmed some pro-Israel activists in Washington. The RJC was concerned enough to invest in the contest, even though it is rated as likely to remain in Republican hands by nonpartisan prognosticators.

“Liberal Leslie Cockburn chooses to eat with despots and dictators,” the voice-over in the RJC ad says, as the spot opens. “Leslie Cockburn dined with dictator Saddam Hussein’s war criminal sons, Uday and Qusay — and had tea with [Muammar] Gaddafi.”

Cockburn’s book, Dangerous Liaisons: The Inside Story of the U.S.-Israeli Covert Relationship, was published in 1991. But the RJC and other pro-Israel activists are worried that Cockburn’s views of Israel haven’t changed since then. The RJC television ad references a 1991 review of Cockburn’s book that was published in the New York Times, and operatives concerned with her views on Israel are referring to it as well.

"Instead, their book, supposedly a history of the secret ties between Israel and the United States, is largely dedicated to Israel-bashing for its own sake," the review says. "Its first message is that, win or lose, smart or dumb, right or wrong, suave or boorish, Israelis are a menace. The second is that the Israeli-American connection is somewhere behind just about everything that ails us.”

Rep. Tom Garrett, R-Va., is retiring at year’s end, leaving an open contest to replace him in the Republican-leaning 5th Congressional District. Denver Riggleman, an entrepreneur who flirted with running for governor in 2017, is the Republican nominee. In addition to this race, the RJC has participated in the North Dakota Senate race and the race for Pennsylvania’s 1st Congressional District.