Rumors about a serious primary challenge to Democratic Rep. Jamaal Bowman have intensified after Westchester County Executive George Latimer opened a campaign committee with the Federal Election Commission on Monday. The district’s Jewish community has lambasted Bowman for his stance on Israel – including his recent call for a ceasefire – while Latimer has been encouraged to run with support from pro-Israel groups including the American Israel Public Affairs Committee. Within hours of news breaking that Latimer had opened a committee, a high-profile coalition of Bowman’s supporters came out to back him, indicating the progressive coalition behind him won’t see him ousted without a fight.
And they don’t really have a choice. AIPAC is throwing a lot of money around in the hopes of ousting progressive politicians and those critical of the Israeli government.
Shortly after Latimer opened his committee, elected officials Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and state Sen. Gustavo Rivera publicly announced their support for Bowman. As Politico’s Emily Ngo reported, Ocasio-Cortez’s campaign sent a fundraising email titled “BREAKING: Jamaal Bowman has a challenger.” Make the Road Action, a group dedicated to immigrants’ rights, also endorsed Bowman on Monday. The New York Working Families Party endorsed Bowman ahead of Latimer’s official paperwork filing on Dec. 1, noting that Bowman “always” leads “with courage and compassion.” In September, National Nurses United threw in their support followed by the League of Conservation Voters in October.
A political consultant who worked with Bowman before cautioned that socialists in Bowman’s district need to “put their money where their mouth is” and get involved if they want to see Bowman in office come 2025.
“Latimer is going to have serious money and so the challenge has to be taken seriously,” said Deb Mayo, managing advertising strategist at Middle Seat, a progressive political consulting firm. “We've also seen small-dollar fundraising has dropped off to a larger extent than high-dollar fundraising, which obviously tilts the scales and gives more power to groups like AIPAC who are spending big money in these races and deciding ultimately who is going to be able to represent people.”
As a result of AIPAC’s involvement, Mayo said she foresaw smears against Bowman and suggestions that he was antisemitic because he was critical of the Israeli government. His saving grace may be a return to the activism and turnout that powered national success for Democrats when Biden was elected president.
Former Rep. Mondaire Jones is attempting to return to Congress after redistricting kicked him into a crowded Manhattan primary and dodged questions about his support for Bowman or his AIPAC-backed challenger. The Democratic Socialists of America, of which Bowman’s membership lapsed, has also been quiet and in the past disagreed with Bowman’s approach on Israel, calling it too supportive.