Top Democrat in Westchester County, NY, files to challenge Rep. Jamaal Bowman

December 6, 2023

On December 4, Westchester County, New York, Executive George Latimer (D) filed paperwork indicating that he will run against Representative Jamaal Bowman (D-New York) for the House seat just north of New York City—becoming the latest primary challenge against a member of the liberal group of lawmakers known as “The Squad, ” reports The Washington Post.

Latimer filed a statement of candidacy to the Federal Election Commission on Monday. The county executive told the Post in late October that the race could be a “proxy argument” between “the left and the far left.”

The potential primary challenge comes as tensions rise within the Democratic Party about curbing U.S. support for Israel and the civilian death toll in Gaza after Hamas’s attack on the Jewish state October 7. Latimer visited Israel in October, but did not comment on his plans for 2024.

Bowman and his allies focused their responses on Monday not on Latimer, but on outside groups they said were targeting progressives and lawmakers of color.

In a statement, Bowman’s campaign spokesperson, Emma Simon, noted, “It’s not a surprise that a Super PAC that routinely targets Black members of Congress with primary challenges and is funded by the same Republican mega-donors who give millions to election-denying Republicans including Donald Trump, Ron DeSantis, and Ted Cruz [has] recruited a candidate for this race.”

The Working Families Party of New York—a liberal group that supported Bowman in previous races—said in a statement Monday that it would again back Bowman for reelection. The group also warned that pro-Israeli groups, including American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), “are planning to spend millions” to defeat him.

Marshall Wittmann, a spokesman for AIPAC, said in a statement that unlike Biden and other Democratic lawmakers, Bowman is aligned with “the anti-Israel extremist fringe.”

He added, “Democrats in this district deserve a representative who stands by the mainstream view which supports the U.S.-Israel relationship.”

Recently, Bowman told MSNBC, “It’s one thing to support Israel” but “it’s another thing to never hold Israel accountable for their behavior, whether it’s the occupation, the open-air prison that is Gaza, or the war crimes that are taking place right now during this siege.”

Bowman also became a target of right-wing ire after a September incident in which he pulled the fire alarm that forced the evacuation of the Cannon House Office Building as lawmakers scrambled to avert a government shutdown. He pleaded guilty to the charge of pulling a false fire alarm in late October.

As part of a deal with the D.C. attorney general’s office, Bowman agreed to pay a $1,000 fine, give $50 to a crime victim’s compensation fund and, within two weeks, apologize in writing to the U.S. Capitol Police chief, according to court documents.

Other liberal House members facing a primary challenge in 2024 include Reps. Cori Bush (D-Missouri), Ilhan Omar (D-Minnesota) and Summer L. Lee (D-Pennsylvania). The challenges come as President Joe Biden  and other Democrats face pressure from activists, as well as young voters and voters of color, over their handling of the war.

Research contact: @washingtonpost