What to know about the Democratic primary in NY's 16 District

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U.S. Rep. Jamaal Bowman, D-Yonkers, stunned the political world in 2020 when he ousted veteran Rep. Eliot Engel in the Democratic primary.

Two years later he faces two Westchester legislators in the Aug. 23 primary in a newly drawn district that comprises the county’s four largest cities of Yonkers, New Rochelle, White Plains, and Mount Vernon and the suburbs that surround them. There's also a section of the north Bronx.

Bowman, 46, a self-proclaimed member of progressive “Squad” that includes Rep. Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez, D-Bronx, says he wants to help lead a mass movement to save American democracy. His agenda includes elimination of the Electoral College for presidential elections, expansion of the U.S. Supreme Court, and consideration for adding more members of the U.S. House of Representatives.

Rep. Jamaal Bowman talks during the in support of Roe v. Wade rally in White Plains, NY on Sunday, June 26, 2022. KELLY MARSH/FOR THE JOURNAL NEWS
Rep. Jamaal Bowman talks during the in support of Roe v. Wade rally in White Plains, NY on Sunday, June 26, 2022. KELLY MARSH/FOR THE JOURNAL NEWS

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“We need to evolve our democracy into a multi-racial, multi-cultural and multi-gender democracy that it is,” Bowman, a former middle school principal, said at a recent Indivisible Westchester candidates’ forum.

On the primary ballot against Bowman is Westchester County Legislator Vedat Gashi, 44, of Yorktown, and County Legislator Catherine Parker, of Rye, 56. A fourth candidate, Mark Jaffe, of Harrison, has withdrawn from the race, but his name remains on the ballot.

Gashi had entered the Congressional race in the spring, when redistricting lines set by the state Legislature for the 16th District extended north through Yorktown, where Gashi lives. Gashi, an attorney who chairs the county legislature’s Budget and Appropriations Committee, stayed in the race after those lines were thrown out in state Supreme Court. Gashi said he would relocate to the 16th District if elected.

Gashi wants to bring a more moderate voice to the district. He supports financial aid to Israel, a ban on the purchase of assault-style weapons, and a pathway for citizenship for more than 10 million undocumented immigrants.

Gashi has criticized Bowman’s foreign policy positions, noting that he voted against $6.6 billion in military aid to Ukraine and supported a House resolution that called Israel's founding "a catastrophe" for the Palestinian people, who lost their land, with hundreds of thousands becoming refugees.

“It’s the time when Ukraine needs it the most, and he voted against it,” he said.

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Bowman said he supports both Israel and Palestinians in what he believes should be a two-state solution to the longstanding conflict. He said has voted for $46 billion in aid to Ukraine, but opposed the additional aid that was part of the broader US military budget, which he finds to be bloated.

“Congress should not have a military budget that exceeds the domestic budget,” said Bowman. “This is the core of our message: jobs and education, not bombs and incarceration.”

Parker, who has served seven terms on the county Board of Legislators, wants to codify abortion rights on the federal level while transforming the U.S. health care system into a single-payer model through expansion of the federal Medicare program to all Americans.

“As a country, we shouldn’t treat health care like a luxury,” she said.

Bowman also favors a single-payer health care system while Gashi has called for improvements to the Affordable Care Act, citing his support for the recently passed Inflation Reduction Act, which extended ACA subsidies to cut the cost of health care insurance.

The new 16th District in Westchester and the Bronx

The district includes Eastchester, Harrison, Mamaroneck, Pelham, Rye City, Rye Town, Scarsdale, Mount Vernon, Scarsdale, New Rochelle, White Plains, Yonkers, most of Greenburgh, and part of the north Bronx.

When and where to vote

Early voting for the primaries runs from Aug. 13 through Aug. 20, with Election Day on Tues. Aug. 23. Links to early voting sites are found at the Westchester County Board of Elections.

Follow David McKay Wilson on Twitter @davidmckay415. Lohud.com subscribers can sign up for his weekly newsletter. Read his columns in the lohud.com archive.

This article originally appeared on Rockland/Westchester Journal News: NY16: Jamaal Bowman faces 2 challengers in Aug. 23 Democratic primary