Jamaal Bowman scores Hakeem Jeffries’ endorsement in tough primary fight

House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries has formally endorsed Rep. Jamaal Bowman, ending months of speculation about the embattled progressive’s place in the Democratic Party due to his outspoken criticism of Israel.

Bowman faces a competitive primary in the 16th Congressional District as he seeks re-election. His challenger, Westchester County Executive George Latimer, is a more centrist Democrat who supports Israel’s ongoing invasion of Gaza. Top Democratic leaders in Washington had mostly kept quiet about the race until Jeffries’ endorsement.

“We stand together to endorse our colleague Jamaal Bowman for re-election,” Jeffries said in a joint statement with Minority Whip Katherine Clark (D-Massachusetts) and Caucus Chair Pete Aguilar (D-California) released Friday morning.

“Rep. Bowman’s life experiences – raised by a single mom in public housing and founding a public school serving low-income children in the Bronx – have shaped him into a public servant who fights for economic justice and in defense of historically underrepresented communities.”

Jeffries’ endorsement is a critical pickup for Bowman, who represents a sliver of the northern Bronx and southern Westchester. Bowman has been relentless in his calls for a permanent cease-fire and has faced criticism from pro-Israel officials and constituents for saying Israel’s conduct in its war on Hamas in Gaza amounts to “genocide.”

Latimer is backed by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, a boogeyman figure among the party’s left-wing. Jeffries has also received AIPAC support over the years.

Latimer outraised Bowman roughly 2-to-1 last quarter with a $1.4 million haul propelled by AIPAC outreach. He is favored by voters incensed by Bowman’s comments on the war, whereas Bowman has been vigorously defended from attacks by an antiwar contingent within and beyond the district.

Jeffries, who hails from Brooklyn, is notably to Bowman’s right on Israel. But Jeffries has endorsed several progressive incumbents facing credible primary challenges this election cycle, including Reps. Summer Lee of Pennsylvania and Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, who are also facing blowback over their comments on Israel.

Hamas militants invaded Israel on Oct. 7, killing 1,200 people and taking more than 200 hostages, according to Israel. Israel responded by invading Gaza, which has resulted in a death toll that has surpassed 32,000, with more than two-thirds of those killed women and children, according to Gaza’s health ministry. The United Nations has warned that famine is an imminent threat in Gaza and could happen “anytime.”

Bowman said he was “proud” to have the support of Democratic House leaders.

“Together, we’ve stood up against powerful special interests and extreme MAGA Republicans to deliver much-needed progress for poor and working people everywhere,” Bowman said in a statement. “We have more work to do and I’m excited to continue working with the House Democratic leadership to defend our democracy, protect our rights, and fight for the people.”

Latimer has picked up a number of endorsements from the more traditional local establishment, including Democratic city and town committees and former Rep. Eliot Engel, whom Bowman ousted in the Democratic primary in 2020.

In a statement through his campaign, Latimer said he remained confident in his chances.

“As a former leader of a legislative body, I understand that it is normal for leaders to support incumbent members of that body,” Latimer said on Friday morning. “My support base is strong in the district among Democrats where the primary will be decided, and I look forward to voting for [House Minority] Leader Jeffries for speaker next January.”

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