Progressive 'Squad' member Rep. Jamaal Bowman at risk of losing primary race to moderate Democratic challenger

 June 25, 2024

New York is holding its primary elections on Tuesday and one Democratic congressional race in particular has garnered close attention due to its broader implications for the party and its internal ideological divisions.

Rep. Jamaal Bowman (D-NY), a member of the far-left progressive "Squad," faces the real prospect of being removed from Congress by moderate Westchester County Executive George Latimer, according to Fox News.

The primary contest has become a microcosm of not just the ongoing struggle for superiority between the Democratic Party's progressive and moderate wings but has also highlighted the increasingly bitter intraparty tensions on issues like class, race, and the Israel-Hamas conflict in Gaza.

Bowman could be first "Squad" member ousted from Congress

Politico reported Rep. Bowman, first elected in 2020 to represent New York's 16th District, which encompasses much of suburban Westchester County and parts of the Bronx, faces the possibility of being not just the first incumbent Democrat to be ousted by a primary opponent this election cycle but could also be the first member of the far-left progressive "Squad" to be kicked out of Congress by voters.

The seat is in no danger of being flipped by Republicans in November but the race is important in that it has exposed the deepening rift between the disparate factions fighting for control of the Democratic Party, with the most prominent issue right now being the discordant views on support for Israel and the Palestinians.

It is a battle that Bowman appears to be losing, according to the New York Post, if reports on early voting numbers are accurate and provide a preview of what Election Day turnout and the ultimate results will be.

So far, there has been a strong showing by Democratic Jewish voters in the district who are organized, coordinated, and focused on replacing the anti-Israel Bowman with the pro-Israel Latimer.

Primary race a "referendum" on progressive left's anti-Israel views

Newsweek reported that the Bowman-Latimer primary contest carries greater weight than just who will represent New York's 16th District in the next congressional term as it has essentially doubled as a "referendum" on the progressive left's increasingly outspoken anti-Israel and pro-Palestinian views versus the generally pro-Israel or relatively neutral views of most moderate Democrats.

The focus on the Israel-Hamas conflict in Gaza and where the two candidates stand on the issue has been driven in part not just by Bowman's openly espoused anti-Israel views but also by the substantial sum of money, estimated to be at least $14.5 million, that the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, or AIPAC, has poured into the race to defeat the incumbent progressive.

"Given the money AIPAC has invested in the race, the outcome will be considered a referendum on Israel," political strategist Jay Townsend told Newsweek. "If Congressman Bowman comes up short, the message to progressives will be 'tread on Israel at your own peril.' If he wins, the number of progressives willing to publicly sympathize with the Palestinian people will grow."

Progressives rally around Bowman

CNN reported that the "embattled" Rep. Bowman held a major campaign rally on Saturday, ironically at a venue outside of the district, where he was joined by prominent fellow progressives like Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and fellow "Squad" member Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) to motivate supporters to vote for him.

That rally included multiple instances of thinly disguised antisemitism from the left in the form of attacks against AIPAC that were couched in bigoted stereotypes.

However, the perpetual Middle East conflict has not been the only issue at play, as both candidates have accused the other of being racist and classist in the hard-fought primary battle.

Indeed, Bowman, who is black, has accused Latimer, who is white, of harboring anti-black views and employing a "southern strategy" of portraying him as an "angry black man." Meanwhile, Latimer has countered those claims by asserting that Bowman only pays attention to his "black and brown" constituents while ignoring Asian, Jewish, and white voters in the district.

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