New York County Exec Launches Primary Campaign Against Anti-Israel Democrat Jamaal Bowman

George Latimer has criticized fellow Dems for failing to recognize 'the historic oppression of the Jewish people'

George Latimer (Eugene Gologursky/Getty Images)
December 4, 2023

Westchester County executive George Latimer filed paperwork Monday to launch a primary campaign against Rep. Jamaal Bowman (D., N.Y.), who has faced intense criticism from Jewish leaders in his district over his hostile stance toward Israel.

Latimer—a former state legislator who has led Westchester's county government since 2018—is expected to publicly announce his campaign against Bowman later this week. Latimer's statement of candidacy, filed Monday to the Federal Election Commission, establishes the Democrat as a candidate for New York's 16th Congressional District and formalizes his campaign committee, George Latimer for Congress.

The move makes Bowman the latest left-wing "Squad" member to face a primary challenge following Hamas's Oct. 7 terrorist assault on the Jewish state. Bowman since the attack has blamed both sides for the violence and repeatedly called for an Israeli ceasefire, which would embolden Hamas and leave the terror group's leadership intact. While those positions prompted condemnation from 26 rabbis in Bowman's district, Bowman dismissed the criticism, arguing in a Nov. 13 speech that supporting a ceasefire is "what it actually means to be Jewish."

That comment could come back to haunt Bowman in a race that will likely center on Israel.

Bowman's district features a substantial Jewish population, the leaders of which have already lined up behind Latimer. American pro-Israel group AIPAC is also expected to spend in support of Latimer in the primary fight, and Bowman's predecessor, former Democratic congressman Eliot Engel, praised Latimer in October as a "class act" while attacking Bowman as "particularly awful" on Israel.

Latimer's campaign launch comes just days after the county executive returned to New York following a trip to Israel. That trip, Latimer told Politico, showed him that Israel's "anger and fear is directed at Hamas as the terrorist organization," a "differentiation" that he says Democrats "don't often pick up." Latimer has also criticized Democrats who fail to "see the historic oppression of the Jewish people in the same light as we've seen oppression of other groups" and argued that anti-Semitism—not actions taken by Israel's government—motivated Hamas's attack on the Jewish state.

"It was not some event that happened because of years of something else," Latimer said. "It was the express hatred of Hamas toward the Jewish people because they do not want Jewish people to live."

Bowman, whose campaign did not return a request for comment, joined Congress in 2021 following his own primary challenge against Engel. He did not face a serious primary opponent in 2022 when he cruised to the Democratic Party's nomination by 34 points.

Bowman now joins a trio of fellow "Squad" members who are facing difficult primary campaigns.

In Pennsylvania, Summer Lee (D.) will square off against Pittsburgh-area borough councilwoman Bhavini Patel, who has denounced Lee for trying to "equivocate" on the war in Israel. Minnesota congresswoman Ilhan Omar (D.) is also facing a score of pro-Israel primary challengers, while Missouri congresswoman Cori Bush (D.) will have to win a primary fight against St. Louis County prosecutor Wesley Bell should she retain her seat in 2024.