Bowman, Latimer Smear Their Way to the Finish Line

Both campaigns have long lists of endorsements, but they come from very different places.

Campaign mailers have flooded primary voters of the 16th Congressional District.
Published June 7, 2024 2:30 PM
4 min read

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The hard-fought Democratic primary battle for New York’s 16th Congressional District between County Executive George Latimer and Congressman Jamaal Bowman is revealing two men who are worlds apart in their rhetoric, life experiences, and approaches to public service.

As the June 25 primary approaches, hard-hitting mailers, television ads, and press releases put out by the campaigns and groups supporting them seek to highlight — or even distort — those differences.

Pro-Latimer mailings position him as a veteran politician who “has always brought people together to deliver progressive results,” and who has a strong record of defending abortion rights and fighting climate change. Anti-Latimer ads contend that far-right extremists “including January 6 insurrectionists” who oppose abortion rights and progressive causes are trying to “buy this congressional seat” for the county executive.

Bowman’s website positions him as an educator and community organizer “causing problems for the status quo as well as fighting for working people and the most vulnerable in our communities.” Anti-Bowman mailings say the congressman “puts his own political agenda ahead of what’s best for us” and “his radicalism hurts the mainstream Democratic agenda.”

Both campaigns have long lists of endorsements, but they come from very different places.

Reflecting his deep Westchester roots, Latimer has been endorsed by 11 local Democratic committees in the county, many Westchester officials (including the mayors of Yonkers and White Plains), and the two former members of congress (Elliot Engel and Nita Lowey) who preceded Bowman in representing this area.

As an incumbent, Bowman has received endorsements from House Democratic leaders, including House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries, who represents New York’s 1st Congressional District. Otherwise, Bowman’s endorsements largely reflect his alliance with progressive politicians — including leader of “The Squad,” Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez — and groups including the NYC chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America and the local chapter of the Service Employees International Union.

Rep. Jamaal Bowman has been highly critical of his opponent’s campaign being heavily financed by the pro-Israel lobbying group, AIPAC.

Bowman won the endorsement of the national Planned Parenthood Action Fund while Latimer got the nod from ProChoice Voter.

Both candidates have been emphasizing local issues, but their differences on Israel and Gaza are significant. Latimer is a staunch supporter of Israel while Bowman is harshly critical. Jewish leaders were among those who persuaded Latimer to challenge Bowman. Latimer’s support of Israel has earned him millions of dollars in support from Jewish groups, including AIPAC.

On Wednesday, June 4, Latimer received an endorsement that helps him on the Israel issue and contradicted Bowman’s accusations that Latimer had used racist tropes to describe him.

Mondaire Jones, a Black Democrat running for congress against a conservative Republican in a nearby district, endorsed Latimer, saying he supported Latimer’s approach to the Mideast conflict.

In addition, Jones told The New York Times, “George Latimer is not a racist.”

Incumbents overwhelmingly win re-election primaries, but national and local political observers have classified this as a tight race. Both campaigns see that driving voter turnout as the key to their success.

Bowman’s strongest support is in the Bronx, where Co-Op City was added to the voting map during the last redistricting, and less affluent areas of southern Westchester like New Rochelle, Mount Vernon, and Yonkers, where he lives. Latimer, a long-time Rye resident, has built deep ties to the Democratic establishment over a three-decade career in Westchester politics and has particular strength in the district’s many communities where residents have above average incomes.

Bowman has faced accusations of antisemitism during the primary campaign.

“The yard signs blanketing Rye point to George Latimer’s strategy in this primary; he needs to run up the number of votes he gets in his hometown,” said Taegan Goddard, who runs the popular blog Political Wire from his home in Rye. “If you add those Rye votes to the votes of those who are members of Westchester’s largest synagogues — and more likely to support Latimer — you’ll come close to matching the number of residents of Co-Op City, whose 45,000 residents are predominantly Black or Hispanic and more likely to vote for Jamaal Bowman.”

Both campaigns have accused supporters of their opponents or inappropriate, disruptive behavior. On Facebook, Latimer said Bowman supporters “try to block my entrance into events or at the train station. They have their cell phone cameras trained on me, seeking to get me angry so I can give them a ‘hot mic’ moment where I lose my temper and perhaps say something they can use to tweet or post.”

Bowman issued a statement saying that before the first debate on May 13, one of his supporters was “thrown to the ground” while trying to ask Latimer a question “I’m grateful our supporter wasn’t more severely injured, but this occurrence is deeply shameful,” he said. The Latimer campaign accused the Bowman team of orchestrating a “stunt.”

The debate itself was peppered with testy exchanges. As primary day nears, voters can expect more combative campaigning to hit the airwaves and their mailboxes. And the candidates have two more opportunities to square off in debates scheduled for June 10 and 18.

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