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Jamaal Bowman Loses Primary to George Latimer—and a Lot of AIPAC Money – Mother Jones

Jamaal Bowman Loses Primary to George Latimer—and a Lot of AIPAC Money – Mother Jones
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Rep. Jamaal Bowman speaks at a press conference at the U.S. Capitol to demand a ceasefire in Gaza. Mother Jones; Allison Bailey/NurPhoto/AP

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In the most expensive primary in the history of the United States House of Representatives, Rep. Jamaal Bowman (D-N.Y.), a prominent progressive in Congress, lost to George Latimer, a moderate who well-known Democrats had backed in the final weeks of the race.   

The center of the campaign was Bowman’s relatively outspoken stance on Israel’s war on Gaza. In mid-October of 2023, Bowman became one of the first members of Congress to publicly support a ceasefire.

Soon after, Latimer, a suburban moderate—with a habit of posting on Facebook—entered the race, and pitched himself to more conservative Democratic-party voters. He was backed aggressively by pro-Israel groups.

AdImpact, an organization tracking political campaign spending, reported earlier this week that nearly $25 million was spent in this race. 61 percent of that money—nearly $15 million—came from a PAC affiliated with the American Israel Public Affairs Committee called the United Democracy Project. UDP spent most of the money on ads attacking Bowman.

Bowman’s position on the US’s alliance with Israel changed after a November 2021 trip organized by the advocacy organization J Street that took him to the West Bank city of Hebron. Bowman—a former middle-school principal—was particularly affected by his interaction with a group of Palestinian schoolchildren. “There are streets they cannot walk and places they cannot go, simply because they are Palestinian,” he wrote on Instagram at the time. “When I asked about their dreams, their answer was simple: freedom. The occupation must end.” He went on to co-sponsor a resolution with Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) that would recognize the Nakba. Now, eight months into Israel’s unrelenting war on Gaza, more children have been killed than in the previous four years of global conflict.

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Latimer entered the race in early December, presenting himself as a centrist candidate. He said he would, for example, support Biden’s efforts towards a temporary “humanitarian pause,” but would not support Bowman’s “unconditional ceasefire.” Bowman has consistently called the killing of over 37,400 Gazans and the starvation of over a million a genocide. Latimer instead states on his website that he believes in Israel’s right to self-defense and is an advocate for a “two-state solution.”

Latimer began to gain ground among Westchester County’s moderates, while some Bowman supporters were relatively late to the organizational game. The Democratic Socialists of America endorsed Bowman on June 10th, only a little over two weeks before the primary. 

Latimer was haunted by his own ongoing stream of controversies in the weeks leading up to the primary. Latimer, who is white, stated that Bowman’s “constituents are in Dearborn,” rather than New York, referencing a majority Muslim city. Latimer also asserted that Bowman, who is Black, had an “ethnic benefit” over him when recruiting minority voters. 

At a Bowman rally over the weekend, the candidate was joined by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), who attempted to bolster his support. “This election is not about Jamaal vs. Mr. Latimer,” Sanders said. “This election is about whether or not the billionaire class and the oligarchs will control the United States government.” 

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But the rally also highlighted the complicated position Bowman has found himself in as a pro-Palestine politician within the Democratic Party. Some grassroots Palestinian liberation groups, led by Within Our Lifetimes, protested Bowman, Ocasio-Cortez, and Sanders’ rally. They say that while Bowman positions himself as part of the left, his endorsement of President Joe Biden, who has overseen a government that has approved over one hundred weapons transfers to Israel over the past eight months, was incompatible with support for Palestine. “You cannot stand with us while standing next to our killer and actively campaigning for him,” the group said in a statement. 



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