Jamaal Bowman Defeated in Primary

The Gaza conflict has ousted a member of "the Squad."

AP (“George Latimer, a pro-Israel centrist, defeats Rep. Jamaal Bowman in New York Democratic primary“):

George Latimer, a pro-Israel centrist, defeated U.S. Rep. Jamaal Bowman on Tuesday in a Democratic primary in suburban New York that highlighted the party’s deep divisions over the war in Gaza.

With the victory, Latimer has ousted one of the most liberal voices in Congress and one of its most outspoken critics of Israel. Bowman has accused Israel of committing genocide in Gaza, where thousands of Palestinians have died in military strikes.

Latimer, who got into the race at the urging of Jewish leaders and had heavy financial backing from the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, is a former state legislator who has served as Westchester County executive since 2018.

[…]

Bowman had been seeking a third term, representing a district in New York City’s northern suburbs. His defeat is a blow to the party’s progressive wing and a potential cautionary tale for candidates trying to shape their messaging around the Israel-Hamas conflict.

His loss also disrupted what has generally been a stable primary season for congressional incumbents. Most current members of Congress have been able to repel challenges from within their party, though GOP Rep. Bob Good is in a tight contest with a rival backed by Donald Trump in a race that is too close to call.

“This movement has always been about justice. It has always been about humanity. It has always been about equality,” Bowman said at his election party in Yonkers, conceding that he lost the race but remaining unapologetic about his opposition to the war in Gaza.

The American Israel Public Affairs Committee’s political action committee spent nearly $15 million on the primary, filling airwaves and mailboxes with negative ads in an effort to unseat Bowman, who has accused the influential pro-Israel lobbying group of trying to buy the race.

“The outcome in this race once again shows that the pro-Israel position is both good policy and good politics — for both parties,” the American Israel Public Affairs Committee said in a statement.

Some major progressive figures have rushed to Bowman’s defense. In the final stretch of the race, he rallied with liberals Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Sen. Bernie Sanders, while Latimer pulled in the endorsement of former presidential candidate and former New York Sen. Hillary Clinton.

On Israel, both Bowman and Latimer support a two-state solution. They have also both condemned Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack on southern Israel that killed around 1,200 people. But Bowman was one of a few progressives who rejected a symbolic House resolution in support of Israel following the Oct. 7 attack. Latimer firmly backs Israel and said negotiating a cease-fire with Hamas is a non-starter because he believes it is a terrorist group.

Bowman was first elected in 2020 after running as a liberal insurgent against moderate U.S. Rep. Eliot Engel, a 16-term congressman who chaired a House committee on foreign affairs. Bowman, 48, embraced the political outsider strategy this year as well, depicting Latimer as a tool of Republican donors and pro-Israel groups.

Latimer said Bowman’s criticism of Israel was only part of the reason why he decided to challenge the incumbent. He said Bowman hasn’t been attentive to the needs of the district, maintained few relationships with its leaders, and was more interested in getting spots on cable news than he was in helping people.

BBC (“Jamaal Bowman loses most expensive primary race ever“) adds:

One group, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, or Aipac, spent nearly $15m (£12m) in the primary to unseat the left-wing representative in New York’s 16th congressional district.

Overall, $24.8m was spent by various groups in the race, making it the most expensive House of Representatives primary in history.

[…]

Mr Bowman, who won office in 2020, had accused Aipac of trying to “buy” the race in the district, which spans Westchester Country and part of the New York City borough of the Bronx.

“We should be outraged when a Super PAC of dark money can spend $20 million to brainwash people into believing something that isn’t true,” he said.

Last year, US lawmakers formally censured Mr Bowman after he activated a fire alarm while Congress was in session, triggering an evacuation as Democrats were trying to stall a vote to avert a government shutdown.

Mr Latimer was supported by former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, while Mr Bowman was backed by House minority leader Hakeem Jeffries, left-wing representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and independent Vermont senator Bernie Sanders.

A POLITICO feature from last week (“A Trip to Israel Changed Jamaal Bowman’s World View — And Could Cost Him His Reelection“) provides a useful background.

In late 2021, Jamaal Bowman stepped out of a tour bus into the heat in Hebron. The then-rookie New York congressman was visiting the H2 area of the ancient city in the West Bank, which remains under Israeli military occupation with barbed wire-covered checkpoints every few blocks.

Bowman had been in the Middle East for just three days, but he was already seeing sights that were changing the way he understood the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. That day, along with a handful of his congressional colleagues on a trip sponsored by the liberal Zionist organization J Street, he toured a boys’ school administered by the United Nations. The young students there regularly heard live ammunition and smelled tear gas seeping through the school’s walls.

Bowman left profoundly demoralized. “There are streets they cannot walk and places they cannot go, simply because they are Palestinian,” he wrote, sharing a picture of himself posing with the students. “When I asked about their dreams, their answer was simple: freedom. The occupation must end.”

[…]

After the trip, Bowman changed from a relatively mainstream Democrat on Israel into one of the country’s chief antagonists in Congress. He moved from voting for aid to Israel and supporting the country’s normalization agreements to eventually signaling his support for the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement — a Palestinian-led attempt to pressure Israel to withdraw from occupied territories and allow for Palestinian right of return.

His constituents have noticed. For his suburban New York district that is home to one of the largest concentrations of Jews in America, Bowman’s shifting views became increasingly untenable after Hamas’ attacks on Oct. 7. He’s now facing a primary challenger, Westchester County Executive George Latimer, who has made his unquestioning support for Israel a key distinction between him and Bowman. Ahead of the election next week that strategy appears to be working. One districtwide poll from PIX-11 in early June put Latimer’s campaign ahead by 17 points — a stunning lead for a challenger.

And as coverage of the race focuses on Bowman v. Latimer as a proxy war between the left and the center, between pro-Palestinian and pro-Israel power centers in the Democratic Party, between AOC and AIPAC, it’s left out how Bowman’s evolution as a political figure brought us here. His 2021 trip to Israel now serves as a defining moment in his continued evolution — and one that could torpedo his career.

The development is interesting but likely not all that meaningful. It’s just one seat out of 435 and one that will doubtless remain in Democratic hands.

AIPAC has tried and failed to oust other members of the Squad—although they still have Cori Bush in their sights and her primary isn’t until August. They spent an enormous amount of money here but the fact that Bowman was out of sync with his own constituency here tells us very little about what’ll happen elsewhere.

As a general matter, I’d prefer a Congress with fewer firebrands and more workhorses and conciliators. But, while there are certainly extremists in the Democratic Caucus, the problem is mainly on the other side of the aisle.

The AP report mentioned a race closer to home, that featuring the seat of Bob Good, the chair of the House Freedom Caucus. He seems to have narrowly lost by a margin that qualifies for a recount and he has demanded one. Ousting Good, a Tea Party standard bearer (i.e., MAGA before MAGA), would seem to be a step in the right direction but it’s not so obvious. A recent POLITICO report on that race noted:

Millions of dollars poured into the effort to oust Good, the chair of the House Freedom Caucus who has managed to get on the bad side of prominent Republicans. That included former President Donald Trump, who endorsed McGuire after Good initially backed Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis for the presidency. He also was facing the wrath of former Speaker Kevin McCarthy, whose political operation has mobilized against the eight Republicans — including Good — who voted to strip him of the gavel. And a number of his fellow colleagues in Congress actively campaigned against Good after he endorsed incumbents’ primary challengers throughout the cycle.

The race was tighter than many were expecting, especially considering the immense resources that flowed in to boost McGuire — demonstrating just how difficult it is to oust an incumbent. If McGuire’s lead holds, Good could be the first Republican kicked out of Congress by a non-incumbent challenger. (Alabama Republican Rep. Jerry Carl lost his primary in a rare member-on-member challenge due to redistricting earlier this year.)

If the results hold, the differences will be at the margins.

FILED UNDER: 2024 Election, Congress, US Politics, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Modulo Myself says:

    I think Bowman had other issues aside from Israel, and his district was not a favorable one for him. Of all the squad, he seems like the worst at politics, and I’m guessing he didn’t connect with much of Westchester, although the lack of connection was probably mutual. Latimer goes way back there and he compared Andrew Cuomo to Emmett Till after Cuomo was accused of sexual harrassment. The NY state Democrats are completely alienated people and they ran one against Bowman.

    That said, it’s telling that he became radicalized on Israel and Palestine after a visit, and all of the attacks on him re: Israel were just normal things a person who knows something about Israel and Palestinian might think. And the 14 million is a travesty. It’s not as if Bowman has any influence with Biden’s utterly broken foreign policy. Overall, this was a message which can not possibly be followed. Only follow the dumbest and most deranged on Israel, or else–this is the equivalent of Kathy Hochul (who is perhaps the stupidest politician I’ve ever seen) calling of congestion pricing.

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  2. Stormy Dragon says:

    Leaving aside whether Bowman or Latimer was the better choice, I think Hillary Clinton endorsing Latimer was a huge unforced error for the DNC. The Democrats already have issues among more left leaning young people based on being seen as too moderate and too pro-Israel, so having a major party figure openly attacking a prominent progressive primarily over support for Israel, particularly in favor of a candidate heavily backed by a Republican PAC, could very well end up be throwing gasoline on a smoldering fire…

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  3. jpmeyer says:

    Remember, pretty much the only reason Bowman won his seat in the first place was because in 2020 the incumbent was caught on a hot mic (during the middle of all that civil unrest!) saying “lol I’m just an empty suit and don’t care about my district”.

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  4. DK says:

    @Stormy Dragon: “The DNC” has no control over Hillary Clinton and who she endorses. Nor is it true that she attacked Bowman “primarily” over Isrsel. Latimer won support from a broad array of prominent local Democratic figures of all ages, races, and backgrounds because of his long history of relationship-building in the district — and because his opponent was distinctly unlikeable.

    And while some white men left and right might irrationally hate Hillary Clinton maybe, that is not true of most liberals. Clinton is broadly admired among the Democratic Party’s core constituencies — Bowman is not in the ballpark.

    “Left leaning young people” are not the only voters who matter, and even if they/we were, there’s no evidence that Jamaal Bowman is a sacred cow to any critical mass of them/us. Taylor Swift and Beyonce he is not, most people young and old have never heard of him and will lose no sleep over him.

    Bowman did not lack for establishment endorsements himseof, but the size of his loss indicates his candidacy was just not popular even outside of so-called “pro-Israel” voters. He lost not because of “the Gaza conflict,” but because he’s an alarm-pulling kook who voted against Biden’s broadly-popular bipartisan legislation for no good reason — and who could not figure out how to advocate for Palestinians and question the far right, fanatical Israel government without being a jerk and weirdo who alienated swaths of his own district.

    Jamaal Bowman and Cori Bush have gambled there’s a constituency for a sort of uncompromising, inflammatory, left-wing Marjorie Taylor-Greenism among Democrats. F around, find out.

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  5. MarkedMan says:

    FWIW, I went down the rabbit hole of the reader responses to today’s NYT article about this defeat and a few things stuck out. First, the most liked responses were predominantly from people in his district. And there were two big issues, with the Israel thing running a distant third: Poor constituent support and him pulling the fire alarm. There was a real resentment that when other politicians in his district were showing up at community events about issues of local concern, Bowman was nowhere to be seen, or perhaps worse, was very visible at events that had nothing to do with his district’s problems.

    I’ve long said that most people’s voting priorities are exactly wrong. The office where your vote makes the least impact and the result has the least direct effect on your life is the Presidency. The most? If you live in a city it’s your city councilman or equivalent. If you have kids or just care about kids then School Board might equal that. Bowman’s office falls somewhere in between. He’s at the federal level but represents a district that is in a very small geographical area (as Federal rep’s distracts go) and has a lot of joint State/Federal projects that have a big impact on the people there. Getting the reputation of caring more about national issues than about the district is a serious mistake.

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  6. Michael Reynolds says:

    The idea that this will cause some sort of uprising on the Left is just so precious. Progressives have shot themselves in the foot by obsessing monomaniacally over Gaza and completely failing to do anything useful on issues Americans actually care about. AWOL on trans issues, AWOL on abortion, AWOL on voting rights. They could have been a force, they could have helped to turn the tide. They blew their chance to matter in American politics.

    It’ll take some time for them to figure it out, if they ever do, but progressives no longer matter. We now look to the Boomers, the graybeards, the old farts who actually show up to vote, to save democracy.

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  7. Andy says:

    @DK:

    I haven’t followed this race closely, but I think your comments are exactly right.

    In Colorado news, unfortunately, Boebert’s carpet-bagging run to the state’s most conservative district succeeded, perhaps because it was a 6-way race and she had by far the most name recognition and money, so she won with a bit over 40% of the vote.

    Trump’s anointed candidate to replace the retiring Lamborn lost big to a talk-show host named Crank (I’m not kidding).

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  8. Stormy Dragon says:

    @DK: @Michael Reynolds:

    Feel free to tell yourself that.

    One thing that’s changed a lot for me since I came out is that I’ve been spending a lot more time around 20-30 year old queer people, and if you saw the way they all talk about the Democratic Party, especially the non-white queer people, you might not be so cavalier.

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  9. Michael Reynolds says:

    @Stormy Dragon:
    That tracks perfectly. Yes, queer people should turn against the one party that actually defends them because of a fucking war that has nothing to do with them or their lives. Sorry, trans folks that won’t be able to take a pee in an airport, sorry women who’ll be arrested for crossing state lines to have an abortion, sorry Black people trying to vote, but progs had flags to wave and slogans to chant.

    Narcissistic, ignorant, virtue signaling clowns. Utterly useless.

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  10. DK says:

    Jamaal Bowman is championed by the kinds of people who think AOC is an establishment sellout because she’s endorsed Joe Biden, doesn’t think Gaza is the only issue that exists, and advocates for Palestinian civilians while acknowledging Israel’s right to exist and condemning antisemitic rhetoric.

    That tells you what you need to know about why Bowman’s candidacy crashed-and-burned, but not a few of his supporters will continue to blame “the DNC” and AIPAC instead of their own special ability to lose friends and not influence anyone who doesn’t spend all day online.

    Influential on Twitter and influential with real liberals and Democrats who actually vote is not the same thing. Again and again.

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  11. Stormy Dragon says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    They don’t think the Democratic Party is defending them. They think Democratic politicians are all more worried about making conservatives like them than they are about getting things done for their voters.

    But sure, just call them all stupid. I’m sure that will change their minds.

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  12. Sleeping Dog says:

    To the extent that Bowman’s position on Gaza hurt him, and it was probably no higher than third, a disinterested observer needs to ask, WTF? A back-bench congress critter using his megaphone and stakes his reputation on something happening 5000+ miles away?

    Bowman represents a pretty diverse district, that it is overwhelmingly Dem hides that. But the reason the district votes Dem is as diverse as its racial and economic makeup. Bowman, seems not to have understood this and operated under the assumption that due to the righteousness of his position, Dems owed him support. Well it doesn’t work that way.

    Cori Bush could suffer the same fate. When I lived in StL, it was in her district, which has a slight minority lean by population, but the white neighborhoods are overwhelmingly liberal enclaves that are very happy to support black candidates, but there is a limit and they expect a quidco pro. Her predecessors, Messrs Clay, son and father, were very aware of that. But Bush???

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  13. DK says:

    @Stormy Dragon: Gurl, bye. I’m in my thirties, gay/bi, and live most of the year in West Hollywood when not in Georgia or Germany. I hang out with and talk to queer folk ages 20+ every day, none of them are talking about Jamaal Bowman.

    Speak for yourself and your queer friends. But please stop insisting you speak for me and mine.

    Within the gay community and beyond, the loudest 2% are convinced they represent everyone, that life revolves around their social circle. Childish. There’s millions of people in the US, billions of people on the planet.

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  14. Michael Reynolds says:

    @Stormy Dragon:
    Christ your level of ignorance and entitlement is a thing to behold. You think Democrats need you more than you need them? Wow.

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  15. JKB says:

    What I find revealing is that the AP story avoided using the “AIPAC” acronym, which people will have heard and seen, instead using the long name that is likely unknown to most. The BBC story only shows the acronym once but in lower case.

    Almost like they didn’t want to get people to notice that an activist group, AIPAC, long associated with the Democratic party had led the charge. Granted, it could just be that the Gen Zer tasked with writing the story had no clue of what AIPAC was.

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  16. EddieinCA says:

    @DK:

    @DK:

    Wish I could upvote these comments more than once.

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  17. MarkedMan says:

    @Sleeping Dog: Exactly. “Representative” is a job title. The job is to represent the concerns and desires of the people in your district. Bowman doesn’t seem to be very interested in the actual job, but rather wants to be a professional activist. Fine. Let him find someone else to pay him to do that, and let the people in his district have someone representing them that, you know, actually represents their concerns.

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  18. wr says:

    @DK: “Within the gay community and beyond, the loudest 2% are convinced they represent everyone, that life revolves around their social circle. Childish.”

    Not disagreeing with you — but this ain’t just a problem in the gay community. In EVERY community the loudest 2% are convinced of this. Just read the comments on any NYT story — half the messages include the phrase “the American people want” and then go on to describe the writer’s precise preferences…

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  19. OzarkHillbilly says:

    Aipac could’ve saved their money for a race in which it might have made a difference. Latimer was always going to win this one.

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  20. SenyorDave says:

    Latimer comparing Andrew Cuomo to Emmett Till is one of the most offensive remarks I’ve read from a politician. Or maybe I missed something. When was Andrew Cuomo’s mutilated body found in a lake? Oh, I forgot, having to resign because you repeatedly sexually harass women is just the same as being tortured to death for allegedly looking over a white woman. SMFH
    Latimer sounds like a real piece of work, misses votes because of his London trip with his mistress, then puts her on the county payroll with a $136k per year job.
    https://indypendent.org/2024/06/ten-embarrassing-things-about-george-latimer-that-have-us-shaking-our-head/
    The article has it right, he’s a bottom feeder.

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  21. SenyorDave says:

    @MarkedMan: Ironic that they will end up with Latimer, who is the epitome of a sleazeball politician who will do or say anything to get elected, and once in office had no problem putting his mistress on the payroll. Maybe he really is representative of that district.

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  22. Beth says:

    @DK:

    Maybe it’s a trans thing? I’m seeing a lot of the same basic thing in the queer groups I run it. It’s not just the rabid self-proclaimed Tankies. There are people I consider intelligent and clued in that have basically accepted the gospel that “The Democrats!” are basically a right-wing party.

    I suspect the problems are two-fold, 1. “The Democrats!” are an actual functioning coalition party that hasn’t ejected its conservatives and 2. the generation of politicians that came to power during the Age of Reagan (Pelosi/Biden/Schumer) were so scared shitless by Reagan that they have continued to pre-emptively fold to all sorts of Republican bullshit until very very recently. People that were born in the 90’s have no idea how bad the 80/90’s were and have no frame of reference. Add in the systemic issues that Dr. Taylor talks about and you have a recipe for disaster. I have also started to suspect that general Russian ratfucking has helped exacerbate this.

    For what it’s worth, my transition in itself has greatly radicalized me. If one can start to open their eyes during the loss of unearned privilege, you become less willing to eat the shit sandwich that Daddy Reynolds is serving. Between that and granular understanding of the reverberating effects of Slavery/Jim Crow has on just about everything is really turning me into an a real brick thrower.

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  23. MarkedMan says:

    @Beth: What’s a Tankie?

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  24. Beth says:

    @MarkedMan:

    Tankie is a pejorative label generally applied to authoritarian communists, especially those who support acts of repression by such regimes or their allies.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tankie#:~:text=Tankie%20is%20a%20pejorative%20label,such%20regimes%20or%20their%20allies.

    In other words, Idiots. I have little patience for Communists, but the majority of them are well meaning. Tankies are just assholes who don’t seem to get that they will be crushed too.

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  25. Stormy Dragon says:

    @Beth:

    Tankies are generally the “Stalin did nothing wrong” type of far leftist, which is very much not most leftists. The sort who back Russia in Ukraine because NATO is funding Ukraine, and therefore Ukraine deserves to get genocided for being American puppets.

    They also tend to be weirdly conformist (e.g., “queer people are a creation of the bourgeoisie to make the working class weaker and therefore need to be stamped out”). Think the opposite of a libertarian (“I’m economically liberal, but socially conservative”).

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  26. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Beth: Years ago, one of my professors made the argument that the United States effectively had only one party in that we were agreed on capitalism as our economic system, so most of the discussion in politics centers on by what means and to what degree we’re going to protect the interests of the owners of capital. So yeah, “The Democrats” are basically a right-wing party. (This is why the self-proclaimed hard-core liberal in our community keeps making shit sandwiches for you–and probably doesn’t really realize that he’s doing it. A lot of political thinking is bone deep and hard to change. We all have faiths when it shakes out.)

    To be sure, not everything in American life is contextualized in economic terms, but my bias is that even in situations where we’d like to believe that economics plays a small role, we still factor in economic winners and losers–after all, we don’t want “those people” (whoever they may be) to gain advantage, particularly if we have convinced ourselves that resources are limited and/or have expended significant effort to make sure that they are* to protect our own equity positions.

    *Yes, I’m looking at housing

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  27. Beth says:

    @Stormy Dragon:

    Oh yeah, I agree, they are just one subsection of leftist. I just tend to think that they are idiots. Like, I think communism is stupid because it’s fundamentally utopian and either requires massive force or a massive change to humanity. That being said, I suspect most communists are either harmless or have their hearts in the right place. The Tankies and others who think that violent revolution will 1. solve all the problems, and 2. usher in Communist utopia are flat out evil.

    I’m sure there is some very real portion of the left that thinks that if Trump wins and the Republicans get their way, this will something something, usher in Communist utopia. Ignoring the fact that a lot of very real people will suffer and/or die. Also ignoring that it’s more likely that the US will simply slide into fascism and just muddle our way through that. With lots of suffering and death.

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  28. Beth says:

    @Just nutha ignint cracker:

    Yeah, I hear that argument a lot. I tend to think it’s a massive oversimplification of a whole bunch of very complex systems. It’s like saying that because rain and snow are both precipitation, every thing that falls out of the sky is rain.

    It’s like the idea that we can just get rid of “capitalism” and then everything would be fine. Like, it’s just an economic system, it doesn’t control everything.

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  29. just nutha says:

    @Beth: I agree that it’s unlikely that getting rid of capitalism would make the system better. Sadly, that probably makes “center right” as far as we can move. I like progressive ideals, but I don’t find their true believers any more palatable than anyone else’s. But I’m also inclined to see systems trapped in “perfect as the enemy of good” labyrinths because, to some degree perfect is the enemy of good. Settling for “good enough” always makes someone the loser to some degree.

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  30. Assad K says:

    Politics and politicians go up and down but Latimers comment about Bowman’s constituency being in Dearborn was a bit ugly.

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