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Democratic Majority for Israel PAC is running a new digital ad painting Bowman as a politician who attacks his own voters and lies to them too.

Why Latimer could be the first successful anti-Squad challenger

NEW ROCHELLE, N.Y. — For years, moderate Democrats alarmed at the party’s progressive drift have plotted primary challenges to unseat members of the far-left Squad. All have failed.

But next week, Westchester County Executive George Latimer has the best opportunity yet to become the first primary challenger to break up the progressive group when he takes on embattled Rep. Jamaal Bowman (D-N.Y.).

The main headline in the race is the massive amount of spending from anti-Bowman forces that have made New York’s 16th District primary the most expensive of the year. Bowman’s outspoken anti-Israel stances have attracted the attention of AIPAC’s super PAC, United Democracy Project. The group alone has spent over $14 million on ads.

But beyond the money advantage, Latimer’s candidacy is benefiting from a perfect storm that combines his own deep local ties and Bowman’s numerous controversies.

Unlike previous Democrats recruited to beat the anti-establishment left, Latimer has served in state government for years and boasts numerous Westchester-based allies.

“As a challenger to a Squad member, I’m not a wealthy guy coming from left field. I am not somebody who has no footprint in the community,” Latimer told us.

Israel: The animating issue of the race has been Israel’s deadly war in Gaza against Hamas. A substantial portion of the 16th District’s significant Jewish community is aligned behind Latimer, exacerbated by reports that Bowman appeared to tokenize Jewish support.

Bowman insisted that Israel is committing genocide in Gaza, opposed the Abraham Accords, said he is against funding for Israel’s Iron Dome missile defense system and lost the support of progressive Jewish group J Street.

While Bowman told us he regretted claiming that reports of sexual assault during Hamas’ Oct. 7 terror attacks on Israel were “propaganda,” he stood by his other anti-Israel positions.

“Everything else has been not just in alignment with my values and beliefs, but in alignment with what Americans are saying and seeing right now,” Bowman told us. “The people in this district support a permanent ceasefire.”

Bowman told us he’s frustrated that the media coverage on Israel has overshadowed his record on reducing gun violence, supporting affordable housing and uplifting marginalized groups.

Latimer argued that Bowman is a “radical” who has ignored large swaths of the district and lets “ideology talk instead of practicality.”

The run-in: Bowman is energizing his progressive base by hosting events with Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.).

Bowman told us fellow Squad member Rep. Cori Bush (D-Mo.), who’s also facing an AIPAC-backed challenger, is likely to stump for him too.

The Democratic Party’s left flank is portraying the primary as a battle between the billionaire class and ordinary Americans. Usamah Andrabi, a spokesperson for Justice Democrats, said this race would determine whether the party “will let right-wing interests dictate Democratic primaries.”

“Thankfully, most of the people in the district know that the ads are crap, and know that this is all part of big money in politics, which is also crap,” Bowman said.

Latimer, referencing recent polling, said he’s confident he can beat Bowman.

“Is [Bowman] going to get at least 40% of the vote? Yes. Does he have an obvious ethnic benefit? Yes,” Latimer said. “Will he get the people who are furthest to the left? Yes. But once you get beyond a couple of constituencies that he has strength in, he’s weak everywhere else.”

In the race’s final stretch, fellow New York Democratic Rep. Ritchie Torres has forcefully spoken out against Bowman. While Torres said he wasn’t endorsing Latimer, he had plenty of scorn for Bowman’s complaints about outside spending.

“Jamaal Bowman’s greatest problem is Jamaal Bowman,” Torres told us. “AIPAC did not illegally pull a fire alarm, Jamaal Bowman did. AIPAC did not vote against infrastructure, Jamaal Bowman did. AIPAC did not deny the Hamas rapes against Israeli women, Jamaal Bowman did.”

— Max Cohen

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Editorial photos provided by Getty Images. Political ads courtesy of AdImpact.