People fight to save Bowman from right wing big money onslaught
Big money has been pumped into the campaign to defeat Rep. Bowman in tomorrow's primary election in New York State. He has been a strong advocate for Medicare for All and a host of other progressive measures. | Jamaal Bowman for Congress/Facebook

NEW YORK—Big money, notably from a key cog of the U.S. right wing, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, is endangering the political future of progressive Rep. Jamaal Bowman, D-N.Y., in the party’s primary on June 25—and other congressional progressives down the line.

The object of all that AIPAC cash—$14.5 million spent on TV radio and social media advertising so far—is to replace Bowman with the lobby’s hand-picked foe, Westchester County (N.Y.) Executive George Latimer, a marketing executive with Nestle and International Telephone and Telegraph before entering politics.

The spending, and its impact, are a big issue in the race, along with Bowman’s early and outspoken support for a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas. That’s what brought AIPAC and its troves of dollars into the fray. The Democratic primary winner becomes the overwhelming favorite in the deep-blue redrawn district, centered in southern Westchester.

AIPAC’s campaign committee specializes in garnering “dark money”—unlimited and hidden corporate campaign contributions, many of them from Trumpite MAGA givers. The lobby mandates servile support for Israel’s far-right-wingers, especially its Netanyahu government. It even supported the right-wingers in the few years, out of the last two decades, when they were either out of power or had to share it in a “grand coalition.”

AIPAC also weighs in for pro-corporate Democrats, as it did two years ago when knocking off another Netanyahu critic, Rep. Andy Levin, a former top union organizer who had also been a synagogue president, in Michigan. And it’s backed dozens of Republicans who voted against certifying Joe Biden’s election to the presidency three years ago.

Fighting back against AIPAC, Bowman has enlisted progressive support such as the Working Families Party and progressive Jewish groups, as well as House Democratic Leader Hakeem Jeffries of New York and whip Kathleen Clark of Massachusetts.

Unions backing Bowman include AFSCME District Council 37, National Nurses United and its state affiliate, the New York State Nurses Association, and SEIU 1199 United Health Care Workers East. The Laborers, the Operating Engineers and the Civil Service Employees Association back Latimer. Another influential New York union, the New York State United Teachers, has stayed out of the race.

United in rejecting MAGA

“NY-16 Democrats are united in rejecting MAGA’s threat to our freedoms, which is why Trump Republicans are funding a $1.9 million ad spend to distract us from their attempt to buy our seat,” Bowman campaign spokesperson Lawrence Wang told The Intercept.

“But voters know the truth: If MAGA’s top priority is unseating Jamaal Bowman, ours is to re-elect him.”

“Growing up in public housing, my mother was able to support our family thanks to a union job at the post office,” Bowman says on his campaign website. “As a longtime union member, and the only new Democrat on the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, I will never stop fighting for the right of all working people to organize and win the dignity all people deserve.”

Leading progressives, including other members of the progressive “Squad” such as Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., and Sen. Bernie Sanders, Ind-Vt., who was born in the Big Apple, have stumped and spoken for Bowman, including in the final weekend before the primary.

Ocasio-Cortez also has a primary foe, but he’s vastly underfunded and virtually unknown. Her South Bronx-centered district is even bluer than Bowman’s is.

AIPAC has targeted other members of “The Squad,” too, such as Reps. Cori Bush, D-Mo., Ilhan Omar, DFL-Minn., Ayanna Pressley, D-Mass., and Summer Lee, D-Pa. All have been outspoken supporters of a ceasefire in Israel’s war with Hamas and on Gaza. All four, and the rest of “The Squad,” including Ocasio-Cortez, have endorsed Bowman.

Lee won her primary in Pennsylvania earlier this year and Bush and Omar face challenges later in the election season. But AIPAC’s campaign finance arm, boosted by cash from MAGA big-giver Republicans, has put Bowman 17 percentage points behind Latimer in two recent surveys, one of them commissioned by AIPAC’s campaign arm.

The pro-Israel lobby planned to spend $100 million this cycle to oust members of the Squad who criticize U.S. military funding for Israel and lead calls for a ceasefire. AIPAC supports Netanyahu’s war on Gazans, which has killed almost 40,000 people, two-thirds of them women and children.

Usamah Andrabi, a spokesperson for Justice Democrats, which spent at least $165,000 on mail and digital ads supporting Bowman and attacking Latimer said Republicans were using United Democracy Project—AIPAC’s campaign arm–to target Democrats of color. The Working Families Party has spent $118,000 so far to support Bowman.

Latimer touts his projects in Westchester, but never has gone into the northern Bronx section of the district, which is predominantly voters of color.

“This is the same tactic we’ve seen across the country, Republican billionaires using AIPAC’s super PAC to spend millions of dollars targeting Democrats of color in Democratic primaries,” Andrabi said. “Voters should know that every ad they see attacking Jamaal Bowman or defending George Latimer is being funded by the same GOP mega-donors who want to ban abortion, defend insurrectionists, and elect Donald Trump.”

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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.