‘Squad’ member softening Israel rhetoric ahead of likely primary challenge might be ‘too little, too late’

New York Democrat Rep. Jamaal Bowman’s reelection campaign could be upended by a more moderate Democrat politician – who has yet to formally announce a run – amid controversy over the congressman’s Israel stance.

“A lot of observers right now think that this is close to, if not the nadir, for Bowman,” New York-based political consultant Jake Dilemani told Fox News Digital. “This is the bottom for Bowman with certain people in the district and certain other political observers. And rewind to last year, people were disappointed with him.”

Some believed Bowman “did not represent the district” on issues such as Israel and other policies, Dilemani added.

Speculation has grown that Westchester County Executive George Latimer will run against the congressman, but the Democrat official has remained coy on officially announcing his candidacy. Dilemani, who previously worked with Latimer on campaigns, said he’s a “pragmatic and mainstream Democrat” who holds many of the same values as the constituents in Bowman’s district.

Bowman was first elected in 2020 to represent New York’s 16th Congressional District, which encompasses parts of the Bronx and suburban Westchester, as a progressive candidate before becoming a member of the informal left-wing congressional group known as “The Squad.”


Rep. Jamaal Bowman speaks at the National Action Network’s three-day annual national convention on April 7, 2022, in New York City. (Spencer Platt / Getty Images)

Bowman had primaried and beat 16-term, pro-Israel Democrat Eliot Engel, then-chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, in a victory that had some comparing him to fellow New Yorker Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. He is now up for reelection next year, but his run is already mired in controversy over his comments on Israel, which some voters and national viewers have seen as anti-Israel.

This month, Bowman was confronted at an event intended to spread “healing” amid antisemitism, but it devolved into protesters demanding that the congressman also represent Jews in his district when making policy decisions, specifically taking issue with his support of a cease-fire in Israel. Bowman was one of 17 sponsors to support fellow Squad member Rep. Cori Bush’s resolution that called for an immediate cease-fire in Israel last month.

“You’re calling for some weird cease-fire that won’t accomplish anything other than give Hamas, which is basically an ISIS organization, time to regroup and kill more Jews,” one protester told the congressman at the event, according to CBS News.


“Westchester is 15% Jewish. You are not representing our interests when you vote against resolutions like that,” another protester told Bowman.

Bowman has repeatedly condemned Hamas’ attacks on Israel, including on Oct. 7 when the terrorist organization launched its attacks on the nation, describing the bloodshed as “horrific” and calling for measures to “ensure peace in the region.”

Speculation has mounted in recent months that Latimer could officially announce his candidacy and challenge Bowman in the primary amid such controversies, but the county leader has so far stayed mum.

“As I’ve said, many people have reached out to me about this race, and I am taking their words into consideration,” Latimer told Fox News Digital. “But first and foremost, my job and my primary responsibility is about governing for the people I currently serve as county executive, and I’m focusing on doing just that. I have made no other decisions or announcements on my future plans.”

George Latimer, D, Westchester County, NY

George Latimer (Westchester County)

Latimer posted to Facebook last week: “​​Notwithstanding press reports … I’ve made no announcements about my future plans.” He added that he’s instead focused on the recent elections, completing the 2024 county budget, attending the Westchester Solidarity Trip to Israel, and to celebrate his 70th birthday this month.

The Westchester politician is considered a Democrat powerhouse in the area, and he has previously served in the New York Assembly and state Senate before his election as Westchester County executive in 2018. He is term-limited in his county role and will vacate the position in 2025.


“George has had a very long and successful career in politics in Westchester County as a Democrat. He’s never lost an election,” Dilemani told Fox News Digital.

Speculation that Latimer would throw his hat in the ring for 2024 stretches back to at least this summer when Bowman, 47, boycotted Israeli President Isaac Herzog’s speech to Congress – alongside fellow Squad members Reps. Ilhan Omar, Bush and Ocasio-Cortez – in protest of what they said were human rights abuses against Palestinians.

Israel supporters wave Israeli flags near Central Park in November 2023

Thousands of Israel supporters gather near Central Park in New York City on Nov. 6, 2023. (Peter Gerber for Fox News Digital)

Local headlines in July declared that New York Jewish groups and Democrat donors were meeting with the county leader to test the waters for a potential run. The trend has only intensified this fall and includes dozens of rabbis calling on Latimer to challenge Bowman, citing the congressman’s “effort to erode support for Israel on Capitol Hill and within the Democratic Party,” and pro-Israel bipartisan group the United Democracy Project issuing a petition calling for Bowman to “to Stand With Israel.” 


This past summer, ahead of Herzog’s visit, Bowman defended Rep. Pramila Jayapal when she came under fire for saying that Israel is a “racist state,” which also earned him condemnation from supporters of Israel.

Israeli President Isaac Herzog speaks to US Congress, July 2023

Israeli President Isaac Herzog speaks to a joint session of Congress on July 19, 2023, at the U.S. Capitol. (AP Photo / Jacquelyn Martin)

“Being critical of Israel is not anti-Israel, is definitely not antisemitic. I’m a Black man in America. How the hell can I be antisemitic toward anybody else? I know what it is to suffer and be oppressed and be threatened and killed because of who you are,” he said at the time.

Jayapal walked back her comment after pushback from Democrat colleagues and voters.

Rep. Bowman speaking at a Keep TikTok rally on Capitol Hill, March 2023

Rep. Jamaal Bowman, D-N.Y., leads a rally to defend TikTok outside the U.S. Capitol on March 22, 2023. (AP Photo / J. Scott Applewhite)

Dilemani said that Bowman is a “smart man, and he understands the difficult political position he’s put himself in” and that he could attempt to soften his stance on Israel but it would likely be “too little, too late.

“This obviously is a highly emotionally charged issue, people feel very strongly. And they want to know that their member of Congress, who has a seat at the table on these foreign policy issues, actually represents them and not the far-left socialist wing of the … I don’t even want to say the party. They don’t represent far-left socialist ideology,” Dilemani said.

The political consultant said that Latimer’s years in public office built a strong voter base and that his constituents know his political history and are supportive of his platforms.


“He’s one of the strongest retail politicians around, certainly in that part of the world. He’s a very hard-working official. He routinely has some of the highest favorability ratings of any elected official in the area,” he said, “extremely popular and well liked within the Democratic primary electorate, which is obviously important in this potential primary for the House seat.”

Dilemani said that in addition to Bowman’s Israel stances, some voters in New York may also take issue with him voting against President Biden’s infrastructure bill as well as voting against early funding to Ukraine when Russia first invaded the nation last year. The New York congressman also faced controversy this fall after he pulled a fire alarm in the House of Representatives before lawmakers voted to avert a government shut down. He pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor count for triggering the fire alarm and required to pay a $1,000 fine and serve three months probation.

Reps. Bowman, left, watches as Rep. Pressley speaks at lectern

Rep. Ayanna Pressley, at the podium, is joined by fellow Reps. Barbara Lee, left, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Jamaal Bowman, Cori Bush, Jimmy Gomez and Pramila Jayapal as she speaks to reporters on Dec. 8, 2021. (Reuters)

“He’s out of step with the values of the people in his district by far, whereas Latimer is right there representing their interests and viewpoints,” he said.

When asked why Latimer has not yet officially announced his candidacy, Dilemani said that he has the luxury most other congressional candidates do not: name recognition and the ability to raise campaign funds in a short time.


“Running against an incumbent member of your party is not something anyone takes lightly. And I know George can be a very deliberate person, and he is likely seeking input from a tremendous amount of stakeholders, constituents, organized interests, other elected officials, etc. He wants to get a full 360-degree perspective,” he said, noting that it’s feasible Latimer’s rumored announcement could happen in January.

While Bowman’s support among constituents appears to be falling due to his comments on Israel, other groups have explicitly called on Latimer to not run against the congressman. 

“I believe it would be a callous decision to challenge Mr. Bowman and threaten to split the progressive vote and allow a centrist or conservative Democrat to win the upcoming primary. There is considerable support for Congressman Bowman in the district, and we would work urgently to ensure his reelection next November,” the Anti-Racist Alliance and local residents wrote in a letter to Latimer earlier this month.


Fox News Digital has reached out to Bowman’s office and campaign team about a potential Latimer run and his stance on Israel.

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