mapping movement

Updated New York congressional map ensures Bowman-Latimer showdown

The state’s redistricting commission only made small changes to the overall district lines

Lev Radin/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images/Johnny Nunez/Getty Images for Black Music Action Coalition (BMAC)

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/Congressman Jamaal Bowman attends the Black Music Action Coalition's Economic Justice Summit at UTA on February 02, 2024 in Beverly Hills, California.

A proposed New York congressional map unveiled on Thursday would deliver a modest boost to Democrats seeking to retake the majority, while making no changes to the district of a vulnerable anti-Israel incumbent facing a serious primary threat.

While the new congressional lines kept most districts across the state relatively unchanged, the lack of revisions to the seat held by Rep. Jamaal Bowman (D-NY) means the embattled Squad member will still face a tough primary against a formidable challenger, George Latimer, the popular Westchester County executive.

Latimer, a veteran Democrat who has held elective office for the past several decades, is well-known to voters in the current district, which covers more than half of Westchester County and a slice of the Bronx.

If approved by the Democratic-led state legislature, the map would guarantee one of the most consequential primaries of the election cycle, pitting a moderate pro-Israel Democrat against an outspoken progressive who has drawn backlash in recent months amid a series of embarrassing scandals.

The new map would also preserve the district’s significant Jewish constituency in Westchester County. Voters there, including more liberal Jewish voters who have backed Bowman in the past, have grown increasingly frustrated with the former middle school principal’s hostile positions toward Israel amid the ongoing war against Hamas.

The primary matchup is expected to draw outside spending from pro-Israel groups including AIPAC, whose political arm recently backed Latimer in its first endorsement of a non-incumbent this cycle.

The pro-Israel lobby, whose super PAC has already run attack ads targeting Bowman, helped bundle more than $600,000 for Latimer’s campaign, which raised a total of $1.4 million in under a month — doubling Bowman’s haul over a three-month period ending in December.

Meanwhile, in a not-so veiled effort to boost turnout for Latimer, a Jewish advocacy group in Westchester has in recent weeks been actively engaged in an effort to convince independent and Republican Jews to register as Democrats so they are eligible to vote in the primary.

In just over two weeks, the newly formed group, Westchester Unites, enrolled over 1,300 voters as Democrats before the Feb. 14 registration deadline, a spokesperson confirmed.

Dan Mitzner, the policy director for Teach Action Fund, which launched the group and is a project of the Orthodox Union, said in a statement that the enrollment rate represented 10% of its targeted voter base. “This election, the people on the ballot, and what they represent, have clearly ignited this community,” he told Jewish Insider on Thursday. 

Before Latimer announced his bid in December, an anti-Bowman group had conducted polling in the district indicating that Bowman was vulnerable to a challenge, according to several informed sources.

Since then, Bowman’s standing has grown even more precarious as he has drawn scrutiny for past online posts in which he promoted 9/11 conspiracy theories and for praising a controversial anti-Israel scholar who celebrated Hamas’ Oct. 7 attacks, which led a key progressive group that had long supported him to pull its endorsement.

Even as Bowman has apologized for his comments, the controversies only added to a cascade of errors that began last year when he falsely pulled a House fire alarm — drawing a misdemeanor charge as well as a Republican-led censure resolution.

The district boundaries could have been drawn to yield a more obvious advantage to either candidate — for instance, by extending further into the Bronx, where Bowman has traditionally performed well, or reaching into Westchester and Putnam Counties to include more Latimer-friendly voters. 

But the decision to leave the district untouched was likely the safest option for the panel that redrew the maps, whose commissioner, Ken Jenkins, serves as Latimer’s deputy in the county executive’s office.         

One Jewish Democrat opposed to Bowman and familiar with the redistricting process cautiously noted on Thursday that leaving the lines as they exist “wouldn’t hurt” Latimer’s odds in the June primary.

For his part, Latimer was equally restrained on Thursday, even as experts believe he could have an edge if the proposed House lines are approved. In a statement to JI, he called the map “only the next step in a long process,” voicing confidence in the state legislature “to complete this process fully and fairly.”

“Regardless of the timing or the ultimate disposition of the lines,” he added, “we look forward to continuing to bring our message of progressive results that benefit the people of our area, in whatever neighborhood they live and in whatever jurisdictions are ultimately assigned.”

A spokesperson for Bowman’s campaign did not respond to a request for comment on Thursday.

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