The primary race between Rep. Jamaal Bowman, D-N.Y., and Westchester County, N.Y., Executive George Latimer tells a story.

It’s a story which will say a lot about the Democratic Party, circa 2024.

And it’s a story Democrats may wish would disappear just four-and-half months before the November election. 


The primary challenge race Bowman and Latimer highlights schisms in the Democratic Party. It exposes the raw nerves between progressives like Bowman and more mainstream Democrats like Latimer. It also underscores the fissure over the Middle East which is cleaving the party. Bowman lambastes Israel over the war against Hamas. Latimer is outspoken in his defense of Israel.

Latimer decided to challenge Bowman after the Congressman formerly denied sexual violence and other atrocities by Hamas.

“There’s still no evidence of beheaded babies or raped women. But they still keep using that lie. Propaganda,” said Bowman in a TikTok video which went viral.

It took until last week for Bowman to retract those comments during an appearance on WNYC-FM in New York.

“Immediately when the UN provided additional evidence, I voted to condemn the sexual violence. I apologize for my comments,” said Bowman on WNYC. 


A side-by-side view of Rep. Jamaal Bowman, D-N.Y., and Westchester County, N.Y., Executive George Latimer. (Getty Images)

The pro-Israel political action committee AIPAC poured money into the campaign of Latimer after Bowman lashed out at Isarel. The race emerged as the most-expensive primary in House history. The tab: a whopping $24 million between the candidates combined.

But it’s the involvement of groups like AIPAC playing in the race which spurred the progressive cavalry to ride to the aid of Bowman. Bowman surrogates didn’t linger on his differences with Israel. Instead, they targeted the influx of cash into the race.

“This election is not about a clash of ideas. This election is about whether billionaire super PACs can buy our democracy,” said Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt.

“Since he has been elected to Congress, he has not accepted one dime of corporate lobbyists,” said Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., while campaigning for Bowman. “Why does he do that? Because he knows if you take corporate money, if you take lobbyist money, you can not put the people of Westchester first.”

Bowman put it in more profane terms while campaigning over the weekend.


“We are gonna show f$*king AIPAC the power of the motherf–king South Bronx,” boasted Bowman at an expletive-laden campaign rally outside the district Saturday. 

Latimer called such coarse language “inappropriate.”

“I think I get the right to lose my temper,” said Latimer. “I don’t think I get the right to curse in public.”

Bowman continued his salty rant to an adoring crowd in the Bronx.

“People ask me why I got a foul mouth. What am I supposed to do? You coming after me? You coming after my family? You coming after my children? I’m not supposed to fight back?  I’m not supposed to fight back? We’re gonna show them who the f&%$ we are,” warned Bowman.

That distills the quintessence of the Bowman/Latimer race. Different styles. Different approaches. Different ways to connect with Democratic voters.

“X. For Gen X. For the Bronx. X. From Malcom X!” thundered Bowman.

“What I’ve offered is a slogan that says results. Not rhetoric,” said Latimer. 


Rep. Jamaal Bowman (D-NY) speaks at a re-election rally at Maceachron Park on June 21, 2024 in Hastings-on-Hudson, New York.  (Joy Malone/Getty Images)

And then there is the geography of the district. Progressives dot the urban areas of the north Bronx which Bowman represents now. Same with inner suburbs like Yonkers and New Rochelle. But it’s a different game when you tread deeper into Westchester County. That’s home to a significant pro-Israel, Jewish population. Especially in towns like Rye Brook and Mamaroneck. 

Voters aren’t as progressive as you creep out of New York City. 

“Bowman’s support diminishes as you go north in Westchester County,” said Ross Baker, a political scientist at Rutgers University who’s watched the race. “It’s really tapering off pretty dramatically when you get to places like Rye. So it’s basically Latimer country.” 

Bowman finds himself squeezed in an electoral vice between progressives and energized voters who align with Israel. That’s why the contest is a bellwether for the internal rift which torments the Democratic Party.


“If Jamaal Bowman also falls, I think it would deliver a pretty strong message that this particular wing of the Democratic Party is out of favor with Democratic primary voters,” said Baker. “(The Middle East) is right on the fault line between progressives and moderates. And both candidates are perfect examples of what their various factions represent.”

Latimer tries to contrast his views with those held by Bowman. 

“He had other members of the squad have an active, aggressive, anti-Israel situation. If there’s a path to peace, then you have to have Israel and the Arab world at the table and they have to negotiate this out.”

Bowman was controversial before the war in the Middle East. U.S. Capitol Police charged him criminally after he pulled a fire alarm in the Cannon House Office Building last fall during a vote to avoid a government shutdown. 

“It was a dumb choice,” said Bowman after his court appearance. “I take full responsibility for it now. I’m trying to move on. Just do my job.”


George Latimer, Westchester County executive and US Democratic House candidate for New York, speaks during the Glen Island Bridge public meeting at New York Athletic Club Travers Island in Pelham, New York, US, on Tuesday, March 19, 2024.  (Yuki Iwamura/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Bowman avoided jail time. But he faced a fine and had to exhibit good behavior for a couple of months. The judge also required him to write a letter of apology to the U.S. Capitol Police. 

Former. Rep. Eliot Engel, D-N.Y., who chaired the House Foreign Affairs Committee and was a major supporter of Israel, represented the district for three decades. But Bowman defeated Engel in a 2020 primary. That loss by Engel represented a leftward tilt by Democrats and an emergence by progressives in the House Democratic Caucus. Ocasio-Cortez defeated former Rep. Joe Crowley, D-N.Y., in the New York primary in 2018. Crowley was thought by many to be a potential successor to former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif. Then came other progressives. Rep. Cori Bush, D-Mo., took out former Rep. William Lacy Clay, D-Mo., in a 2020 primary as well. 

But the war in the Middle East began to reveal friction in the Democratic coalition. The fight over the Bowman/Latimer race is a microcosm of this. The Mideast conflict is why President Biden may struggle to get younger voters to the polls this fall. He and other Democrats may also face trouble in regions with significant Arab or Muslim populations like Michigan. 

But the race is a litmus test for the direction of the party. A Bowman loss may show fractures with progressives. But a single loss could just be a one-off. However, Bush is on the ballot in a primary contest against St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney Wesley Bell and former state senator Maria Chappelle-Nadal in August. It’s a trend if Bowman loses – potentially followed by a loss later this summer by Bush. 


And the lesson for the Democratic Party? There’s a lot of division on their side of the aisle.

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