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How the Bowman vs. Latimer Race Reflects Democratic Divisions on Israel

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Image Credit: Salon.com

Rep. Jamaal Bowman is facing a formidable challenge from George Latimer in a heated Democratic primary for New York’s suburban district north of New York City. The primary has drawn significant attention due to the substantial financial influence of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) and its allied super PAC, which has injected nearly $15 million into the race.

The race has heated up in response to Bowman’s criticism of Israel. He accused Israel of genocide in Gaza, where over 37,000 Palestinians were reported slain. His opposition to a symbolic House resolution backing Israel following Hamas’ October 7 strike inflamed the dispute. These attitudes have prompted Jewish leaders to support Latimer, a 70-year-old veteran politician and current Westchester County executive, in his bid to oppose Bowman.

A significant influx of campaign funds from AIPAC has been directed at Bowman, leading to a barrage of advertisements attacking the incumbent. Bowman has countered by accusing the pro-Israel lobbying group of attempting to buy the election. Despite the financial onslaught, major progressive figures have rallied to Bowman’s defense. In the race’s final stretch, he has garnered support from high-profile liberals such as Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Sen. Bernie Sanders. Conversely, Latimer has received the endorsement of former presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.

This primary has become a critical indicator of where Democratic voters stand on the issue of Israel, highlighting the tension between the party’s liberal and centrist factions. The outcome could disrupt an otherwise stable primary season for congressional incumbents. Most current members of Congress have fended off internal party challenges, although GOP Rep. Bob Good is engaged in a close contest with a Trump-backed rival.

Latimer, a political veteran with over three decades of experience, highlights his extensive knowledge of the district and long-standing contacts, which he feels would help him to be a successful congressman. He frames himself as a fervent supporter of Israel, advocating against negotiating a cease-fire with Hamas, which he considers a terrorist group.

Bowman, a former middle school principal, frames his campaign as a battle between wealthy donors and ordinary voters. He stands by his call for a ceasefire in the Gaza conflict and condemns Hamas’s attack on Israel on October 7. Bowman seeks to continue advocating for working-class families and increasing political engagement among young people.

Bowman is running for his third term in a district that has undergone demographic changes since he first won office in 2020. The district now includes more of Westchester County’s suburbs and has a slightly different racial composition, with 21% of the voting-age population being Black and 42% non-Hispanic white. Bowman is Black, and Latimer is white.

Nationally, Democratic Party leaders are promoting centrist candidates who may do better in suburban areas. This primary is part of the party’s larger push to win congressional seats in suburban districts. Another high-profile primary is on Long Island, where former CNN analyst John Avlon and scientist Nancy Goroff are competing for the Democratic nomination to face incumbent GOP Rep. Nick LaLota. Avlon, running on a moderate platform, has gained support from various party officials. Goroff, who was defeated in the 2020 election, is running again.

On the Republican side, Rep. Claudia Tenney faces a primary challenge from businessman Mario Fratto in a conservative district that includes the Finger Lakes region and areas along Lake Ontario. Tenney defeated Fratto by 14 points in a 2022 primary, but the race remains closely watched.

As the July 25 primary approaches, the race between Bowman and Latimer in New York’s suburbs underscores the Democratic Party’s significant splits on important topics like Israel. AIPAC’s considerable financial donations, as well as high-profile endorsements on both sides, highlight the significance of the contest. The outcome will not only define district representation, but will also indicate the direction of Democratic politics in the face of internal ideological disputes.

This story was originally featured on BBC

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