Updated New York map ensures Latimer has fighting chance to oust Bowman

The new lines cement Westchester County as the district’s base, even as New York Democrats made small tweaks to the 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.

The Democratic-led New York Legislature unveiled a proposed House map on Tuesday that locks in the showdown between Rep. Jamaal Bowman (D-NY) and George Latimer, the Westchester County executive who is mounting a well-funded primary challenge in one of the most hotly anticipated races of the 2024 election cycle.

The newly revised congressional lines, introduced after New York Democrats rejected a separate map devised by the state’s bipartisan redistricting commission, would make only minimal changes to Bowman’s district, which includes more than half of Westchester County and a portion of the Bronx.

In a Bronx swap, the updated map, which state lawmakers in Albany are expected to vote on this week, would remove the neighborhood of Wakefield but return Co-Op City to Bowman, who lost the predominantly Black community when the district lines were redrawn in 2022.

But even as the modified lines would slightly increase the percentage of Black voters, giving Bowman a minor boost, the new boundaries were not expected to meaningfully shape the primary, owing to the large remaining swath of Westchester County where Latimer has long been known to constituents.

A Democratic source in Albany who is familiar with the redistricting process and supporting Latimer’s campaign described the calculus behind the lines as amounting to “pluses and minuses,” noting that the new district still represents a “90-10” split between Westchester and the Bronx — which helps to ensure a competitive race. “We’re not worried this is going to impact the primary,” the insider said on Tuesday. “The percentage of the Bronx is the same.”

If approved, the new boundaries would wholly preserve the district’s sizable population of Jewish voters, many of whom have grown frustrated with Bowman’s outspoken criticism of Israel amid its war against Hamas in Gaza. In recent months, more than 2,300 voters in the safely blue district have changed their registration to Democrat following an initiative to convince independent and Republican Jews to switch their party enrollment so they are eligible to vote in the primary.

Now that the lines are likely to be finalized, the race is expected to draw outside spending from pro-Israel groups backing Latimer, who is a strong supporter of the Jewish state.

In a statement to JI on Tuesday, Latimer, a veteran Democrat, remained cautious in his assessment of the new lines, which he called “the next step in a long process” that could face a court challenge from GOP lawmakers, even as the overall changes to the map were relatively modest. 

“Whatever the final lines provide,” he added, “we will be aggressively reaching out to all residents of this district to bring our message of electing a congressmember who can deliver real progressive results that benefit the people of our area.”

A spokesperson for Bowman did not respond to a request for comment on Tuesday.

Even as the lines were cast as advantageous among Bowman’s allies, who had lobbied to regain Co-Op City, the modest revisions were otherwise seen by outside observers as satisfying the far left without actually making a major difference.

“It allowed the DSA contingent of members to save face and vote,” said a Democratic state lawmaker, referring to the Democratic Socialists of America, the hard-left group whose members are frequently aligned with Bowman. “But it’s basically a fair trade.”

To other observers, there may also have been political motivations at play unrelated to the upcoming primary between Bowman and Latimer, according to a Democratic insider in New York City close to the redistricting process, who pointed to “external” and “internal” reasons for the exchange of neighborhoods in the Bronx.

By returning Co-Op City to the district, the insider told JI on Tuesday, the seat will become “friendlier” to a likely future House prospect, state Sen. Jamaal Bailey, a Bronx Democrat and protégé of Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie.

“It sets up a seat that allows for a more streamlined possibility of keeping it in the family,” the insider  said of the new House lines. “Heastie gets to keep the progressives happy and also gets to set up his friend and protégé in the Bronx for a potential future run. If you’re Carl, this is a win for you.”

Subscribe now to
the Daily Kickoff

The politics and business news you need to stay up to date, delivered each morning in a must-read newsletter.