Latimer files paperwork to challenge Bowman in Democratic primary for Congress

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Westchester County Executive George Latimer took formal steps to challenge Rep. Jamaal Bowman in a Democratic primary on Monday by filing federal paperwork to declare his candidacy and create a fundraising committee.

Latimer, who had been weighing for months whether to run for New York's 16th Congressional District and looked increasingly likely to do so, made those filings a few days after returning from a four-day trip to Israel and with no public announcement about his decision.

Westchester County Executive George Latimer presented his 2024 budget on Nov. 9, 2023 in White Plains, flanked by county Operations Director Joan McDonald, and Deputy County Executive Ken Jenkins
Westchester County Executive George Latimer presented his 2024 budget on Nov. 9, 2023 in White Plains, flanked by county Operations Director Joan McDonald, and Deputy County Executive Ken Jenkins

His candidacy sets the stage for what could be a heated, big-spending battle between an unequivocal progressive who has represented the 16th District for nearly three years and a 35-year office holder closer to his party's ideological center.

The 16th District is heavily Democratic and takes in the southern half of Westchester County and a sliver of the Bronx. Bowman, 47, a former Bronx middle school principal who lives in Yonkers, won the seat in 2020 after beating longtime Rep. Eliot Engel in a primary.

Rep. Jamaal Bowman hosts a community project funding roundtable discussion March 27, 2023 at Andrus Center in Yonkers. Rep. Jamaal Bowman announced $20 million in grants to several community groups.
Rep. Jamaal Bowman hosts a community project funding roundtable discussion March 27, 2023 at Andrus Center in Yonkers. Rep. Jamaal Bowman announced $20 million in grants to several community groups.

Latimer, 70, has been Westchester County executive since 2018 and is due to leave office at the end of 2025, barred by county law from seeking a third term. He served as a state senator, county legislator and in other elected positions before his current role. He is a former marketing executive and lives in Rye.

Still thinking: Latimer still weighing possible bid for Congress against fellow Democrat Bowman

Latimer hasn't responded yet to a request to discuss his decision to run.

He said nothing about it during a weekly video address on Monday, but seemed to offer hints about his interest and the stakes of the 2024 election at the end. That came after he described the Israel tour that he and other elected officials and Jewish leaders from Westchester took last week.

Comparing American democracy to Israel's Iron Dome missile defense system, Latimer asked viewers: "What if that Iron Dome fails? What if, through the small-d democratic process, we wind up with a totalitarian leadership that is prepared to do away with democracy?"

"There's a lot to think about," he concluded. "I've got a lot to think about, you've got a lot to think about."

Bowman's campaign said in response to Latimer's filings that Bowman will continue to focus on delivering for his constituents and "standing up to powerful special interests in Congress."

"We will continue to fight and deliver what the people of New York's 16th District are demanding like affordable housing, child care, climate action, jobs, education, healthcare, and defeating antisemitism, Islamophobia, and racism," campaign spokeswoman Emma Simon said in a statement.

The progressive Working Families Party, which had announced on Friday its early re-election endorsement for Bowman, reiterated its support and lamented Latimer's entering the race in a statement on Monday. It cast that primary as a distraction from the fight to unseat several GOP freshmen in New York, a critical House battleground in 2024.

Bowman endorsement: Bowman clinches Working Families endorsement. Will he face primary against Latimer?

"Since his first day in office, Rep. Bowman has been a powerful champion for working people," said Jasmine Gripper, co-director of the New York Working Families Party. "Unfortunately in a year when our democracy is on the line, George Latimer has chosen to divert resources from efforts to retake the House in his bid to challenge the first Black representative in NY-16's history."

Westchester County Democratic Chairwoman Suzanne Berger declined to comment until Latimer has announced his campaign.

Two other Democrats already planned to challenge Bowman in 2024: Michael Gerald, a former state trooper and undersheriff who works in Latimer's administration as deputy correction commissioner; and Marty Dolan, an investor and financial adviser.

Whichever candidates remain in the race will compete in a primary on June 25.

One unknown in the race is whether New York's congressional lines will move before then. The state's highest court is expected to rule this month on whether a state redistricting panel must draw new map to replace one imposed last year. That is a politically charged process that state lawmakers ultimately could decide.

Latimer's top aide would be a leading player in the first redrawing stage if that occurs. Ken Jenkins, Westchester's deputy county executive, is chairman of the 10-member New York State Independent Redistricting Commission.

Chris McKenna covers government and politics for The Journal News and USA Today Network. Reach him at cmckenna@gannett.com.

This article originally appeared on Rockland/Westchester Journal News: Latimer files papers to challenge Bowman in Dem Congressional primary