Albany Agenda

As expected, the Bowman-Latimer primary is pricey

Together, the two Democrats raised more than $2 million in the most recent fundraising cycle – to defeat one another.

Westchester County Executive raised nearly $1.4 million to oust fellow Democrat Jamaal Bowman.

Westchester County Executive raised nearly $1.4 million to oust fellow Democrat Jamaal Bowman. Lev Radin/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images

The fundraising numbers are in for the 16th Congressional District, and Rep. Jamaal Bowman could be in trouble. His opponent, Westchester County Executive George Latimer, raised nearly $1.4 million compared to Bowman’s roughly $725,000 in the fourth quarter of 2023. The fundraising hauls for Latimer and Bowman are impressive, but they are also indicative of how much attention the race is drawing, which may not be a good thing for New York’s Democrats. Instead of pouring money into swing districts, many Democratic donors are focusing on a Westchester County proxy battle over the direction of the party.

“Here’s a case where an estimated $2.1 million that could have been used to defeat Republicans, from a Democrat perspective, now are going to a primary,” said veteran Democratic strategist Hank Sheinkopf. “Not the best day that anyone ever had.” 

While announcing his fundraising totals, Latimer has trumpeted that the bulk of his donations came from within the district as opposed to Bowman, whose national image as a progressive firebrand lends him a wider network of funding outside the state. But contrary to Latimer’s posturing, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, long expected to inject money into his campaign, donated over $600,000 to him in the latest filings, over 40% of his fundraising total. 

Latimer has said previously that his campaign wasn’t a distraction, and wealthy donors focused on his race could still donate in the general election so he wouldn’t be emptying the party’s coffers. “I don’t think the argument holds water,” Latimer told City & State. He added that even if he lost he’d turn around and support other Democrats. 

“If I lose the primary, I thank the voters of the district for their attention and that's the end of my effort and I immediately start working on helping Democrats in November,” he said.

Bill Neidhardt, an adviser to Bowman’s campaign, called the idea “ludicrous.” “If he cared about Republicans not taking the majority he would not create a distraction in a district that is bordering multiple other districts where Republicans have seats in districts Biden won,” Neidhardt said. 

There are several competitive general election races in the neighborhood. Due north in the 17th Congressional District, Democratic former Rep. Mondaire Jones and Republican Rep. Mike Lawler raised a combined $1.5 million in the fourth quarter. In the 18th Congressional District, Democratic Rep. Pat Ryan and Republican challenger Alison Esposito raised a combined $1.1 million. Further upriver in the 19th Congressional District, GOP Rep. Marc Molinaro and Democrat Josh Riley raised a combined $1.1 million. The amount of time and money being spent in the 16th Congressional District primary could eventually dwarf general election campaigns.

One exception is the special election race to replace disgraced Republican George Santos in the Third Congressional District on Long Island, where Democrat Tom Suozzi raised $4.5 million and Republican Mazi Melesa Pilip raised $1.3 million, Politico New York reported. That election will take place Feb. 13.