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George Latimer beats NY Rep. Jamaal Bowman in heated Democratic primary

U.S. Rep. Jamaal Bowman, D-N.Y., speaks to reporters after a news conference on TikTok in front of the U.S. Capitol on March 22, 2023, in Washington, D.C. (Alex Wong/Getty Images/TNS)

NEW YORK — George Latimer toppled progressive Rep. Jamaal Bowman Tuesday in a heated NY-16 Democratic primary that focused largely on the incumbent’s progressive views and harsh criticism of Israel’s war in Gaza.

The Westchester County Executive parlayed his deep roots in the district and a torrent of pro-Israel spending to unseat the progressive incumbent, who turned off some with his flamboyant antics.

He’s the prohibitive favorite to win the deep-blue district over a little-known Republican opponent in the November general election.

Latimer’s win amounted to a powerful endorsement of his support for Israel and his moderate politics and a big setback for Bowman’s outspoken leftist style, especially in a moderate suburban district.

Latimer launched his challenge to Bowman, the first Black lawmaker to represent the district, in December as Bowman emerged as one of the leading congressional critics of Israel’s war.

With longstanding strong support in Westchester’s large Jewish community, Latimer called out Bowman and fellow progressives for what he called antisemitic opposition to Israel and downplaying the Oct. 7 Hamas terror attacks.

The race quickly exploded into a costly referendum on the politics of Israel, with pro-Israel donors and the right-wing America Israel Political Affairs Committee pouring millions into the effort to defeat Bowman. They have also funded potent challenges to Rep. Cori Bush, D-Mo., and Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn.

The Bowman-Latimer fight also turned into a proxy war between moderate and progressive Democratic factions, with Latimer touting himself as a stronger and more reliable ally of President Biden, whom Bowman has occasionally criticized.

In the end, AIPAC spent a record $14.5 million on television ads, and polls showed Latimer building a significant lead in recent months.

As the primary vote neared, Jewish groups rallied support from synagogues and community groups and boasted of an overwhelming turnout in the nine days of early in-person voting.

Bowman, 48, raised big bucks of his own from progressive donors and had the enthusiastic support of the left-leaning Working Families Party.

He hit back hard with raucous election week rallies featuring progressive icons like Sen. Bernie Sanders and Rep. Alexandria-Ocasio-Cortez.

The charismatic lawmaker riled up the crowds with hip-hop lyrics and even dropped some f-bombs. But by then the die was cast, with Latimer’s long record in the district trumping Bowman’s energy.

The defeat ends a four-year stint in Washington for Bowman, a former Bronx middle school principal who won the seat by beating longtime incumbent Rep. Eliot Engel in a contentious 2020 primary.

He suffered an unforeseen setback when the NY-16 district was redrawn to include far more of Westchester and far less of the Bronx, forcing him to compete on much less-friendly political turf.

Just over 20% of the district’s voting-age population is now Black and 42% is non-Hispanic white.

Bowman also won headlines for some of the wrong reasons, like when he pulled a fire alarm on Capitol Hill during a closely contested vote last summer.

He wound up having to plead guilty to a misdemeanor, an embarrassing moment for a onetime rising star.

Latimer, 70, on the other hand, has built a career as the steady face of local Democratic politics in Westchester County.

A former marketing executive and state lawmaker, he won the county executive post in 2018, riding an ongoing blue wave that has turned the onetime swing county into a Democratic stronghold.

He built deep roots across the county, including in his childhood home of Mount Vernon, which is now a majority Black city.

Latimer made a couple of missteps of his own, like when he accused Bowman of representing Dearborn, Michigan, the Detroit-area city that includes the largest Arab-American community in the U.S, which Bowman allies called an anti-Arab dog whistle.


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