In Bizarre Closing Campaign, Jamaal Bowman and the 'Squad' Battle for the South Bronx—Which Isn't In His District

With his political life on the line, Bowman pledges to show 'the power of the motherf—ing South Bronx,' which is not in his district

Jamaal Bowman shakes a stool during his June 22 Bronx rally. (David Dee Delgado/Getty Images)
June 25, 2024

Rep. Jamaal Bowman (D., N.Y.), just days away from the primary election that could define his political career, addressed the crowd defiantly. Flanked by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I., Vt.) and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D., N.Y.) during a Saturday rally, Bowman warned his adversaries that they were about to experience the "power of the motherf—ing South Bronx."

There was just one problem: Bowman does not represent the South Bronx.

Bowman does represent a small (northern) section of the borough. But the size of that section pales in comparison to the rest of Bowman's district, which includes the southern half of Westchester County. Of the roughly 490,000 voters enrolled in Bowman's 16th Congressional District, roughly 450,000 are based in Westchester County, according to New York voter data released in November.

Despite the size disparity, Bowman has tailored his closing message almost entirely to left-wing residents in the Bronx—both within and outside of his district. By contrast, the two-term congressman has openly disparaged Westchester County residents—particularly the Jewish ones. During an interview with Politico released on Friday, Bowman accused Westchester County Jews of purposefully creating "segregated" communities.

"Westchester is segregated. There's certain places where the Jews live and concentrate," Bowman said. "I'm sure they made a decision to do that for their own reasons … we've been separated and segregated and miseducated for so long."

That remark—paired with Bowman's Bronx-centered closing rally—reflects the bizarre nature of the congressman's primary fight against George Latimer, which will come to a close on Tuesday. Latimer, who has represented Westchester County at the state and local levels since 2005 and remains popular in the area, leads Bowman by 17 points, according to a June poll from New York City television station PIX11.

Rather than work to win over the county's voters, however, Bowman has spent the closing weeks of his campaign leaning into the anti-Israel views that alienated many of them in the first place. Earlier this month, for example, he defended his decision to vote against a House resolution that condemned Hamas, saying he did so because the resolution called the terror group's Oct. 7 attack on Israel "unprovoked."

"One of the first lines was ‘condemn Hamas for this unprovoked attack.’ And I stopped reading at that point," Bowman said. "If we're calling this an unprovoked attack, that means we're going to ignore 18 human rights organizations calling Israel an apartheid state."

While Bowman once attempted to toe the line on Israel-related issues—during his first House race in 2020, he penned an open letter that expressed support for a two-state solution while denouncing the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement—he has since emerged as one of the Jewish state's loudest opponents, particularly in the wake of Oct. 7. Roughly one month after the attack, Bowman dismissed reports of Hamas terrorists raping Israelis as "propaganda."

Such rhetoric prompted a liberal Jewish group that has long supported Bowman, J Street, to rescind its endorsement of the congressman earlier this year. The move did not deter Bowman, who has since openly acknowledged that he's no longer trying to convert his detractors.

"This is a turnout race, y'all," Bowman said during an event on Friday. "This is not about persuasion. We got our people. They got their people."

Jewish leaders in Westchester County have responded by blasting Bowman—and organizing their community to vote. Young Israel of Scarsdale rabbi Jonathan Morgenstern expressed confidence that the effort would lead to Bowman's ousting.

"In talking about his Jewish constituents as people who live ‘segregated’ in certain places where only ‘the Jews’ live and ‘concentrate,’ congressman Bowman has literally entered the annals of the most pernicious anti-Semites in our history," Morgenstern told the Washington Free Beacon.

"We live together to practice our religion; we build communities around our central places of worship, because many of us don't travel on Shabbat and the holidays, and even if we do, we want to cultivate our connection to our communities, families, and our Jewish traditions," he continued. "We also seek to live and dwell in harmony with our neighbors of all faiths, ethnicities, colors, and creeds."

"Mr. Bowman may have won in 2020, but we look forward for him to join the ranks of … anti-Semites throughout history, who, ultimately, were remembered for their Jew-hate long after they lost their positions of power."

Bowman's campaign did not respond to a request for comment.