Bowman, Latimer Congressional Primary Getting Downright Ugly

The first debate between Rep. Jamaal Bowman and Westchester County Executive George Latimer descended into a nasty exchange.

Jamaal Bowman and George Latimer have sparred on everything from the Israel-Palestine conflict to gun violence in Westchester’s cities. Contributed photos
Published May 23, 2024 3:08 PM
3 min read


The first debate between Rep. Jamaal Bowman and Westchester County Executive George Latimer for the Democratic nomination in New York’s 16th Congressional District descended into a nasty exchange of interruptions, accusations, and arguments.

“Sniping, snark and incessant interruptions defined the first televised debate in one of the country’s most competitive primaries Monday night,” Politico reported, describing the May 13 event.

The debate hadn’t reached the five-minute mark before Bowman said Latimer is working with “MAGA Republicans.” Time and again Latimer accused Bowman of being big on rhetoric and weak on results.

Bowman accused Latimer of being “bought and paid for” by the American Israel Political Action Committee. And Latimer criticized Bowman’s effectiveness in office, saying “If he had a stronger record as congressman, he wouldn’t have to attack me. He wouldn’t even have to mention my name.”

In one of the tensest moments of the debate, Bowman said that Latimer’s frequent criticism of the con- gressman’s style played into racist stereotypes of “the angry black man” — an assertion that Latimer denies.

The June Democratic primary race has been drawing national attention.

As CNN put it on May12: “The war in Gaza is reverberating all the way through north Bronx and Westchester County, defining the most competitive primary an incumbent House Democrat is facing anywhere in the country.

“That’s where Rep. Jamaal Bowman of New York, who got to Washington four years ago by winning a primary against one of Israel’s then-most adamant defenders in Congress, is now facing a major challenger of his own, driven in part because of criticism of Israel that opponents say has put “Squad”-aligned politics ahead of what his district wants.”

The 16th is a strongly Democratic district so whoever wins the primary is considered a shoo-in to win the general election in November.

The contentiousness of the campaign is surprising to Rye residents who have known Latimer as a neighbor and politician for decades. The county executive’s political career began on the Rye City Council before he moved on to the county legislature, state assembly, and state senate.

Writing on Facebook, Latimer lamented the negativity of the race:

“I’m watching the tone of this primary — from Facebook posts to mailings — moving in a nasty, negative manner. I’ve been in primaries before — and the competitors kept a civil tone. But I’ve seen a different attitude in this one: I’ve been called by my opponent ‘corrupt,’ that I haven’ t done anything as [county executive]; his backers called me Genocide George and a MAGA acolyte. (Yeah, one who has passed more good policies than any other County in the State on housing, environment, women’s rights, etc.”

Mailings — largely from political action committees — have been striking in their harshness.

Flyers from Bowman supporters accuse Latimer of being anti-abortion and pro-insurrection, because he receives financial support from groups that receive donations from “right- wing billionaires.”

An oversized postcard shaped like a fire alarm from Latimer supporters states that the congressman “Illegally pulled a fire alarm that delayed the House from voting …. Voted against President Biden’s bipartisan infrastructure bill…. and doesn’t get results and won’t compromise.”

Latimer has been more successful at fundraising than Bowman, according to the latest public information from the Federal Election Commission. Overall, Latimer took in $2.2 million in the first quarter, compared to Bowman’s $1.3 million. In Rye, Latimer raised nearly 10 times more than his opponent, George Latimer bringing in $31,020 from 34 people compared to $3,360 from 14 residents for Bowman.

Commission figures show that as of March 31, Latimer had a little over $3 million on hand and Bowman about $1.5 million. In addition, political action committees such as AIPAC on behalf of Latimer and Justice Democrats for Bowman, are expected to spend significant amounts for their candidates.

Voters will have two more opportunities to hear the candidates debate: on June 10, sponsored by the League of Women Voters, and June 18, sponsored by WPIX.

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