Right wing money blitz succeeds at defeating Jamaal Bowman
Rep. Jamaal Bowman (D-N.Y.) speaks during an election night watch party on Tuesday in Yonkers, N.Y. | Yuki Iwamura/AP

NEW YORK—Redistricting and especially a right-wing money blitz—fueled by Republican big givers acting through the campaign finance committee of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee—beat Rep. Jamaal Bowman, D-N.Y., a member of “The Squad” in the June 25 Democratic congressional primary in New York’s 16th District.

With all precincts reporting, Bowman, 48, lost to veteran politician and former business executive George Latimer, 70, in the Westchester County-based redrawn district. Latimer, the county executive, beat Bowman 25,903-21,586.

Bowman remains on the fall ballot as the unopposed nominee of the Working Families Party. In conceding the election, he vowed to fight on for progressive causes but did not say whether he would actively run on that line alone this fall. An email asking if the WFP would campaign for Bowman was not immediately answered.

Bowman was harmed in the latest redistricting, which removed almost all of the former Bronx sections of the district. His voting base was a coalition of voters of color and white progressives. The Bronx voters of color were removed.

Bowman accused Netanyahu’s government of committing genocide in the war. Israel is also now bombing refugee camps it originally told Gazans to flee to.

AIPAC hand-picked Latimer to oppose Bowman and spent $14.5 million spent on TV radio and social media advertising against the freshman incumbent. AIPAC’s ads slammed Bowman’s stand on the war but also lied about the alleged lack of service to the community by Bowman.

Latimer carefully didn’t mention his corporate past, including a stint with International Telephone and Telegraph, a firm that became notorious for influence-peddling, via campaign cash, during the Republican Nixon administration.

And Latimer didn’t even bother to campaign in the remnant of the Bronx still in the district. The New York Times reported Bowman, who is Black, “openly campaigned as the candidate of the working class, progressives and people of color.” Bowman called Latimer the candidate of rich suburbanites.

Latimer “repeatedly made racially coded comments that fed Bowman’s case, including by suggesting the congressman did not care about voters who are not Black or brown,” the Times reported.

“This is literally the most expensive primary in Democratic history,” Indivisible co-executive director Leah Greenberg said.  “It’s that expensive for one reason: AIPAC and its affiliates pumped $15 million in. Calling people who point this out anti-Semitic is cynical, offensive, and makes all of us less safe.”

“The outcome out of NY should concern everyone who cares about Democracy and dark money in politics,” tweeted Rep. Delia Ramirez, D-Ill. The Working Families Party chose Chicago progressive Ramirez to give its reply to Democratic President Joe Biden’s State of the Union address.

“Far right Republican mega-donors funded a $15 million misinformation campaign to unseat a progressive congressman, in a Democratic primary, for daring to fight for peace and justice,” Ramirez stated.

Overall, AIPAC’s campaign finance committee plans to spend $100 million in Democratic primaries this year to defeat what it calls “anti-Israel incumbents.” Its first victim, two years ago, was then-Rep. Andy Levin, D-Mich., a Jewish former synagogue president and also a sharp Netanyahu critic.

Its next targets are “Squad” members Cori Bush, D-Mo., author of the first pro-ceasefire bill, and Ilhan Omar, DFL-Minn., Congress’ first Somali-American elected to Congress.

Earlier this year, AIPAC spent more millions on yet another corporate Democrat, to try to unseat another critic, Rep. Summer Lee, D-Pa., in her Pittsburgh-based district. She won handily. Not coincidentally—and a point Bowman supporters made on the campaign trail—all but Levin of AIPAC’s targeted past and present foes are lawmakers of color.

The Bowman-Latimer race was the headline tilt of the June 25 primaries, but not the only interesting outcome.

In Colorado’s pro-Republican 4th District, controversial far-right GOP Rep. Lauren Boebert won her primary over a badly split field for an open seat this fall. She now represents the adjoining 3rd District, which she almost lost two years ago. Boebert filed to run in the 4th, where GOP Rep. Ken Buck had already resigned because it’s more winnable for Republicans.

Boebert’s main foe, a local mayor, opted to run in the special primary for the remainder of Buck’s term, but not in the regular primary.

And in a presidential campaign development, former Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Ill., the only other Republican—besides Wyoming’s Liz Cheney—on the House January 6 committee investigating the Donald Trump-ordered and abetted U.S. Capitol insurrection three years ago, endorsed Democratic President Joe Biden for reelection and said the insurrection is the reason.

Cheney has said she won’t vote for Trump but hasn’t committed to Biden. Their opposition cost both their congressional seats: Cheney lost her 2022 primary to a Trumpite, and Kinzinger, under pressure from right-wingers at home, retired that year.

“I’ve always put democracy and our Constitution above of all us. It’s because of my unwavering support for democracy that today, as a proud conservative, I’m endorsing Joe Biden for reelection,” Kinzinger, a former Air Force pilot in Iraq and Afghanistan, said in a video.

“I guess I wrestled to the extent of like, okay, you know, endorsing a Democrat as a Republican is a big deal,” he said. “But to me, it wasn’t much… I didn’t have to look in the mirror and look into my soul or anything like that.”

Trump, said Kinzinger, created “a culture of just anger and division.” He told CNN he wants his child to live in a country where people look up to “decency in the greatest office in the land.”

“This is what putting your country before your party looks like,” Biden replied to the video in a post on Twitter/X. “I’m grateful for your endorsement, Adam.”

Bowman was actually defeated on Tuesday in a primary election that had almost nothing to do with rejection by voters and almost everything to do with the power of secretive right-wing lobbyists dumping more millions of dollars into this race than into any congressional primary race in history.

And that spending blitz by lobbyists backing Israel’s genocide in Palestine, which has been strongly opposed by Bowman, came on top of a gerrymandering steamroller that lopped off almost half of the Bronx, one of New York City’s five boroughs, from Bowman’s district and the replacement of it by wealthier Westchester County suburbs. Bowman was left with a district that encompassed only a tiny sliver of the northeast Bronx.

With the victory of the right-wing money machine, we see the ousting of one of the most progressive voices in Congress on a host of issues in addition to opposition to the genocide underway in Gaza. Bowman has accused Israel of committing genocide in Gaza, where thousands of Palestinians have died in military strikes.

The right-wing American Israel Public Affairs Committee pumped an unprecedented amount of money into the campaign for Latimer, a former state legislator who has served as Westchester County executive since 2018.

Incredibly and hypocritically, Latimer called for “civility” following the contentious election. He and his supporters made direct racist and lying appeals to voters with the money AIPAC had poured into the campaign. They often resorted to lies about Bowman’s record, especially with regard to what was widely seen as his good community services operation during his tenure. Some of the campaign efforts by Latimer completely distorted that record.

“We have to fight to make sure we don’t vilify each other and we remember that we’re all Americans, and our common future is bound together,” he told supporters at an event in White Plains. He did not extend that concern about vilification of political opponents during the campaign where he portrayed Bowman as everything up to and including a threat to national security because of his opposition to unlimited arms for Israel.

A Palestinian was shot, beaten, and tied to an Israeli army jeep. The army says he posed no threat. Bowman has said this is the type of thing he was fighting with his opposition to the use of U.S. armaments being put into the hands of the Israeli military. | Maya Alleruzzo/AP

He is trying to get people to accept his slanderous campaign against Bowman and other members of “the Squad” as an attempt to “prevent the nation from splintering” when in fact it is a campaign by the right to “divide and conquer.”

Bowman has said his campaign against funding for Israel has been aimed at preventing atrocities carried out by the Israeli military including attacks against any opponents of the genocidal policy in Gaza.

The corporate media are trying to spread the lie that Bowman’s defeat is a cautionary tale for candidates who support too strongly their opposition to Israeli policy in Gaza. Instead, it is a cautionary tale to people who ignore the readiness of the right wing in the U.S. to use every and any means available to go after progressives on a whole range of issues.

It is also a cautionary tale about how the right wing will try to remove progressives from Congress not just by defeating Democrats but by zeroing in specifically on progressive Democrats in their primary elections. And it is a tale about how so-called centrist Democrats don’t mind teaming up with Republicans when it is convenient for them to do so.

The so-called centrists often criticize those on the left for not being willing to unite with the center but when it is their turn those in the center too often turn to the right, as did Latimer by teaming up with AIPAC. Willingness to unite should be a two-way street.

“This movement has always been about justice. It has always been about humanity. It has always been about equality,” Bowman said at his election party in Yonkers, conceding that he lost the race but remaining unapologetic about his opposition to the war in Gaza.

The American Israel Public Affairs Committee’s political action committee spent nearly $15 million on the primary, filling airwaves and mailboxes with negative ads in an effort to unseat Bowman, who has accused the influential pro-Israel lobbying group of trying to buy the race.

Some major progressive figures had campaigned hard for Bowman. He rallied with Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Sen. Bernie Sanders, while Latimer campaigned with former presidential candidate and former New York Sen. Hillary Clinton, who, unfortunately, did not play a positive role in the race.

Bowman was first elected in 2020 after running against U.S. Rep. Eliot Engel, a 16-term congressman who chaired a House committee on foreign affairs.

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Mark Gruenberg
Mark Gruenberg

Award-winning journalist Mark Gruenberg is head of the Washington, D.C., bureau of People's World. He is also the editor of the union news service Press Associates Inc. (PAI). Known for his reporting skills, sharp wit, and voluminous knowledge of history, Mark is a compassionate interviewer but tough when going after big corporations and their billionaire owners.

John Wojcik
John Wojcik

John Wojcik is Editor-in-Chief of People's World. He joined the staff as Labor Editor in May 2007 after working as a union meat cutter in northern New Jersey. There, he served as a shop steward and a member of a UFCW contract negotiating committee. In the 1970s and '80s, he was a political action reporter for the Daily World, this newspaper's predecessor, and was active in electoral politics in Brooklyn, New York.