Campaigns & Elections

In debate, Latimer charges Bowman favors only Black and brown constituents

The representative fired back that the Westchester County executive having a “few Black friends” doesn’t make him “anti-racist.”

Westchester County Executive George Latimer and Rep. Jamaal Bowman faced off in their second debate on June 12, 2024.

Westchester County Executive George Latimer and Rep. Jamaal Bowman faced off in their second debate on June 12, 2024. Courtesy of Spectrum News NY1

During a fiery debate hosted by Spectrum News NY1 on Wednesday night, Rep. Jamaal Bowman and Westchester County Executive George Latimer accused one another of failing to care about their constituents. With early voting in the Democratic primary beginning in days, there’s no doubt how Bowman and Latimer feel about each other.

During the debate, Bowman accused Latimer of ignoring Black and brown communities in Westchester. “Just because you have a few Black friends doesn’t make you anti-racist,” he said.

Latimer fired back by arguing that Bowman has been too focused on Black and brown communities in the 16th Congressional District, forgetting the rest of his constituents in the process.

“You’re nowhere to be found,” Latimer said. “You talk about the needs of part of the district, and you completely ignore them. You don’t mention Asians. You don’t mention people who are not Black or brown. There’s a whole district, Jamaal, that you’ve ignored, and the district knows you’ve ignored it. That’s why you only have 31% in the last poll.” 

The most recent independent poll showed Bowman trailing Latimer by 17 points.

Each candidate accused the other of lying. “I think it’s time for us to pull the truth alarm, Jamaal,” Latimer said at one point, poking fun at the infamous fire alarm incident. Later in the debate, Bowman told moderators Susan Arbetter and Errol Louis, “This dude will say anything.”

Latimer sought to undermine Bowman’s claims about how much federal funding he has brought into the district, arguing that some of the funding Bowman has taken credit for wasn’t even his doing. At the same time, Bowman has questioned crime and quality-of-life statistics for people of color in Westchester under Latimer’s watch.

Both candidates also attacked one another’s donors. Bowman continued to call out the American Israel Public Affairs Committee for backing Latimer’s campaign, while also calling out Latimer’s donors closer to home. “The wealthy in our district want him to be their congressional representative so he can work for them,” Bowman said.

In response, Latimer accused Bowman of receiving support from outside of the state. “You have supporters in California that want you to represent Westchester and the Bronx,” he said. Latimer also suggested that Bowman’s invocation of AIPAC was an antisemitic dog whistle. Latimer faced his own allegations of dog whistling earlier this week after saying that Bowman’s constituency was “Dearborn, Michigan,” the largest Muslim community per capita in the country, in a recent forum.

At one point, Bowman and Latimer essentially took turns naming small villages and towns in an attempt to display their local bona fides.

“Now I’ve worked with Nancy Kaboolian in Ardsley to support her economic development projects,” Bowman said. “I’ve worked with Mayor Andino in Tuckahoe to support her economic development projects.”

“He needs to know that there’s Rye Brook, that there’s Harrison, Scarsdale, there's Eastchester, Tuckahoe, there's Ardsley, there’s Tarrytown, there’s Irvington,” Latimer said.

While Bowman and Latimer mostly trained their fire on one another, Bowman also took some shots at former congressional colleague Mondaire Jones, who recently endorsed Latimer in the race and accused Bowman of failing to serve his Jewish constituents. Bowman said he is not sure whether he will support Jones in his election in the neighboring 17th Congressional District, where Jones is trying to take back his old seat from Republican Rep. Mike Lawler.

Bowman closed the proceedings by summing up why he thought he was in this predicament, an incumbent trailing a countywide elected official in a district he won as an insurgent four years ago. 

“They recruited him to run against me, and they’re spending more money in this race than they have ever spent in their history,” Bowman said of pro-Israel groups like AIPAC. “Why? Because I’m fighting against the genocide in Gaza and because I’m speaking up for Black and brown people here. We should not be sending billions of dollars to another country to commit genocide while we are struggling to live day to day right here in this district.”

Latimer gave his own explanation for why he was leading in the polls. “We’ve had enough of the rhetoric of Jamaal Bowman,” he said. “This district has had enough of it. “There’s parts of this district that he has flat-out ignored, and those are the people that are donating to my campaign because they don’t feel they have a congressman who represents them.”