Progressive congressman Jamaal Bowman defeated in democratic primary in most expensive congressional race in US history

The US pro-Israel lobby spent a record-breaking amount of money to unseat progressive politician Jamaal Bowman

June 26, 2024 by Natalia Marques
Photo via @RepBowman/X

A racist campaign driven by wealthy pro-Israel donors just successfully unseated progressive congressional Representative Jamaal Bowman in a highly racially segregated region. Bowman’s loss was a direct result of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) spending the most money on his challenger than had ever been spent in a Congressional race in US history, with AIPAC spending what amounted to USD 17,000 per hour

Bowman’s challenger, George Latimer, who ultimately won the race for New York’s 16th Congressional District encompassing the Bronx and parts of Westchester County, is a longtime official in Westchester who actively worked to maintain the high levels of segregation within the county. 

There were glaring issues of race at play in the campaign, with Bowman, a progressive Black man running against effectively a representative of the wealthy white establishment in the region who wielded racial stereotypes in his favor. The outcome of the election also reveals, however, the lengths to which US ruling elites will go to make sure that all officials toe the line on the United States’ unconditional support for Israel.

Center stage in the Bowman/Latimer race was Bowman’s relatively progressive stance on Israel. This was despite the fact that Bowman left much to be desired in his support for Palestine, as in 2021, he voted in favor of funding the Israeli “Iron Dome” missile defense system. Since October 7, he made several public comments condemning certain solidarity protests, including criticisms of a demonstration in Times Square on October 8 and a protest against the racist and misleading Nova exhibit. 

However, when compared to the vast majority of Congressional politicians, Bowman stands out as uniquely pro-Palestine, being one of the only members of congress willing to call Israeli aggression in Gaza a genocide and advocate for a ceasefire. Bowman was one of the few Representatives within the Democratic party who voted against a bill that would provide millions of dollars in aid to Israel back in April. 

This record of support for Palestine proved too much for AIPAC to allow. Latimer even claimed during a heated moment in a debate that Bowman had more support in Dearborn, Michigan, the only Arab-majority city in the US. 

The Latimer/Bowman race follows a trend in changes in AIPAC’s spending record across the country, in which AIPAC is increasingly funneling money into Democratic Party candidates. This is a result of the broad base of Democratic Party voters, especially young people, becoming increasingly pro-Palestine, worrying the pro-Israel political establishment that has been trying to desperately to ensure this change is not reflected at the ballot box. 

Nearly half of AIPAC donors to Democratic candidates this year have some recent history of giving to Republican campaigns or committees,” reports Politico. “That has made AIPAC the biggest source of Republican money flowing into competitive Democratic primaries this year.”

This underscores the strategy of many AIPAC donors, wealthy individuals who usually give to Republican candidates, in donating to campaigns such as that of pro-Israel Democrat Ritchie Torres in the Bronx. Torres represents the poorest congressional district in the US, but political commentator Adam Johnson found that he has mentioned Israel 236% more times than he has mentioned poverty.  

“And Ritchie Torres is the most conservative person who can win in the Bronx, and he is right on the issue of Israel and antisemitism in the United States,” AIPAC donor Eric D. Levine told Politico. “I want to support the most conservative person who can win.”

Other Democrats that AIPAC is funneling money into include Wesley Bell, who will challenge Representative Cori Bush, who authored a ceasefire resolution within Congress. Both George Latimer and Wesley Bell, who are challengers for some of the most progressive and pro-Palestine politicians in the US Congress have received some of the most AIPAC funds out of any House candidates from either major party.

Pro-Israel activists are proud to engage in the democratic process and help elect candidates who stand with Israel as it battles Iranian terrorist proxies,” said AIPAC spokesperson Marshall Wittmann regarding Bowman’s loss. “This race presented a clear choice —between George Latimer who reflects the views of the Democratic mainstream in his congressional district and across the country, and his opponent who aligns with the extremist, anti-Israel fringe.”