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AIPAC endorses Latimer in bid to unseat Bowman

The move is the PAC’s first endorsement of a non-incumbent this election cycle

Lev Radin/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images

Westchester County Executive George Latimer speaks during Gov. Kathy Hochul's announcement of completion of Avalon Harrison near Metro-North station with 143 affordable units and easy access to trains at Avalon Harrison Transit-Oriented Development.

In its first endorsement of a non-incumbent this election cycle, AIPAC’s political action committee is backing Westchester County Executive George Latimer, a formidable primary challenger to Rep. Jamaal Bowman (D-NY) in the northern suburbs of New York City, a spokesperson for the pro-Israel group confirmed to Jewish Insider on Wednesday. 

The new endorsement, which was added to an online political portal in recent days, formalizes AIPAC’s widely acknowledged support for a high-profile candidate viewed as one of its top congressional recruits. Before he entered the primary last month, AIPAC had privately urged Latimer, a veteran Democrat and former state legislator, to challenge Bowman, a Squad member who is among the most outspoken critics of Israel in the House. But the group had yet to confirm if it would officially get behind his campaign until now.

The move also lends a significant financial pipeline to Latimer’s fledgling campaign, which has yet to disclose its fundraising for what is expected to be among the most hotly contested battles of the primary season. Last year, AIPAC’s PAC raised more than $18 million, entering December with nearly $3 million on hand, according to the most recent federal filings.

“We are proud to endorse George Latimer who — in clear contrast to his opponent — is strongly committed to strengthening the U.S.-Israel relationship and standing by our ally as it fights Hamas terrorism,” Marshall Wittmann, a spokesperson for AIPAC, said in a statement shared with JI on Wednesday evening.

Doug Forand, a spokesperson for Latimer’s campaign, cast the endorsement from AIPAC as an example of what he called “the broad coalition of support that has unified behind George in his race for Congress.”

“With the challenges facing us in Washington, George’s strong support for Israel and his message of unity and delivering real results is resonating with voters,” Forand added in a statement to JI on Wednesday, “and we look forward to continuing to build our base of support.”

Bowman, who launched his reelection campaign on Wednesday, blasted AIPAC in a video as “funded by Donald Trump’s Republican megadonors,” warning that the group is now “preparing to spend millions” to oppose him.

AIPAC’s bid to unseat Bowman, whom it chose not to challenge last cycle, suggests a new direction for the group, which has largely engaged in open-seat contests rather than targeting incumbents. But Democratic divisions over Israel amid the ongoing war in Gaza have fueled new efforts to oppose incumbents who have clashed with the pro-Israel establishment.

Last November, in a move that foreshadowed its endorsement of Latimer, AIPAC’s affiliated super PAC, United Democracy Project, launched an initial series of attack ads hitting Bowman over his stances on the Israel-Hamas war, including his vote against a House resolution condemning Hamas. The ad buy was in the six-figure range, a UDP spokesperson confirmed to JI at the time.

Meanwhile, Democratic Majority for Israel’s political arm, which opposed Bowman when he first ran for Congress in 2020, defeating a long-standing  pro-Israel incumbent, has indicated that it could invest in the race, having circulated a fundraising email last month encouraging supporters to contribute to Latimer’s campaign. 

The group, however, has yet to confirm if it will officially endorse Latimer, who has been drawing sharp contrasts over Israel since he entered the race over a month ago.

In addition to Latimer, AIPAC’s political arm also backed more than 50 Democratic and Republican incumbents in the past week, a spokesperson said, expanding on its first round of endorsements for the 2024 elections, released last March. The new list includes several freshman House members.

While AIPAC has in recent months targeted other far-left incumbents facing new primary rivals who have criticized their positions on Israel, Latimer is for now the only challenger to earn an endorsement from the group — indicating that his race is among its top priorities this cycle.

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