One of the nation’s fiercest congressional primaries this year is unfolding in a district that stretches from Co-op City in the Bronx to Elmsford in Central Westchester County. 

There, in New York’s 16th Congressional District, Westchester County Executive George Latimer, a longtime local elected Democrat, is trying to unseat two-term progressive Rep. Jamaal Bowman. 

Both sat down with Spectrum News NY1 for extensive interviews about the race.

What You Need To Know

  • Westchester County Executive George Latimer is trying to unseat two-term Rep. Jamaal Bowman in the Democratic primary in New York's 16th Congressional District 

  • The war between Israel and Hamas has become a defining issue in the election. Latimer is a staunch supporter of the country, while Bowman is an outspoken critic of Israel's handling of the conflict
  • The district is safely Democratic, so whoever wins the primary on June 25 is all but assured to win in November

On the trail, Latimer is painting himself as a progressive who can get things done, such as electrifying buses and banning gun shows on county property, while also cutting taxes. 

“We are a progressive county, but we’re also a responsible county,” he said. “We’ve been able to stabilize the finances of the county. I’ve been able to cut taxes over the course of a five-year period of time.”

Latimer contrasts with Bowman’s vote against the bipartisan infrastructure law, which allocated more than a trillion dollars for transportation, energy and climate projects nationwide. 

“I don't care how you try to defend it, that's a bad vote. It's an irresponsible vote,” he said. “We needed the infrastructure money in order to fix roads and fix bridges and fix schools.”

Bowman, at that time, expressed concern that passing the infrastructure bill alone would cost progressives leverage to get a larger climate and health care package done as well. 

That ultimately passed in the form of the Democrats’ Inflation Reduction Act.

“Historic investments in climate justice. Capping insulin costs at $35-a-month. Medicare now has the ability to negotiate drug prices. Seniors will pay no more than $2,000 per year,” Bowman said. “That was a big idea. We fought for that. That was implemented in my first term.”

Bowman, who has the endorsement of the top House Democrat, Rep. Hakeem Jeffries of Brooklyn, also touts tens of millions of dollars he has brought home for projects across the district, from a youth shelter program in Westchester to a community health network in the Bronx.  

Of Latimer, Bowman said, “This is a person who … has been executive in the county for longer than I've been in office. Yet there are not enough resources and investments and time and attention paid to the parts of the district who are black and brown and progressive and marginalized.”

The war between Israel and Hamas is a defining issue in the race.

Bowman has been outspoken in calling for a permanent ceasefire, and has criticized Israel’s handling of the conflict, including the many civilian casualties in Gaza. 

“Criticism of Israel is not antisemitic,” he said. “We are losing our moral authority on the global stage. And if we don't do something about this and hold Netanyahu accountable, it's only going to get much worse for us and for Israel.”

Latimer is a staunch supporter of Israel, though he has said that there was “no defense” for the recent Israeli drone strikes that killed seven aid workers with the World Central Kitchen organization. He has called for a temporary ceasefire. 

“I see horrific loss of life in Gaza,” he said. “But I also know that I'm not hearing any willingness on the Hamas side to show any understanding that what they did on October 7 was terrible.”

“Calling for the maximum result, which is a negotiated peace between two entities that have been at war for thousands of years … is sort of an insulting thing for an American public official to talk about,” he continued.

Latimer has the endorsement of the prominent pro-Israel group AIPAC. 

Bowman blasts this, noting that some donors to AIPAC’s affiliated Super PAC are also contributors to Republican interests. 

“I think my opponent is bought and paid for by AIPAC. And he's chosen to partner with them and MAGA Trump mega-donors to beat the first Black man in U.S. history in this congressional seat,” Bowman said. “He's running in support of the mass killing of civilians in Gaza. He's running on famine. He's running on the starvation of children supported by AIPAC and Netanyahu.”

In response to this criticism, Latimer said, “AIPAC, in support of Israel, is a major supporter of Hakeem Jeffries, Grace Meng, Adriano Espalliot, Gregory Meeks, Ritchie Torres - those are five Congress members of color from New York.”

“I do not give a blank check to Israel. I don't give a blank check to anybody,” he continued. “But I do think that he has been in such obvious opposition to Israel for such a long time that it's alienated people in the Jewish community.”

Latimer, meanwhile, accuses Bowman of grabbing headlines for all the wrong reasons, such as his guilty plea to a misdemeanor for pulling a fire alarm on Capitol Hill and initially labeling alleged sexual assaults by Hamas fighters in Israel on Oct. 7 “propaganda.” Bowman has since called the assaults “reprehensible.”

Asked why voters should trust his judgment, Bowman said, “We've been making good decisions since we've gotten into Congress. One or two or three mistakes or mishaps do not represent my record in Congress.”

“We've taken thousands of votes. We've passed historic pieces of legislation. We brought in historic dollars for the district. And we show up,” he continued. 

The 16th Congressional District is safely Democratic. Whoever wins the primary on June 25 is all but assured to win in November.