Rep. Jamaal Bowman, George Latimer battle to finish line in N.Y. Democratic primary

NEW YORK — Rep. Jamaal Bowman and challenger George Latimer on Monday raced to the finish line of their contentious Democratic primary for the Westchester County-based NY-16 congressional seat.

The embattled incumbent shook hands at a Mount Vernon church and knocked on doors with fellow progressive Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez on the eve of the election Tuesday that could see him become the first sitting Democratic congressman to lose a primary this year.

Latimer, who has led in opinion polls of the district, countered with a get-out-the-vote rally of his own with clergy in Mount Vernon.

Early vote totals suggest turnout will be heavy, which is not surprising given the extraordinarily heavy spending on the race, with a combined total of $26 million spent by both sides.

About 10,000 Democratic votes had already been cast in Westchester County as of late last week, with several more days of early in-person votes still to be tallied, official figures showed. Another 4,000-plus mail in ballots had been received with many more likely on the way.

The New York City Board of Elections said 6,445 people voted in Democratic primaries across the borough but did not break down the number of ballots cast in the NY-16 race.

A key issue in the race has been Bowman’s fierce criticism of Israel’s war in Gaza, which has divided the Democratic Party base nationwide and sparked some criticism of President Biden.

Latimer made a solidarity trip to the Jewish state before jumping into the race and has enjoyed massive support from pro-Israel donors and the right-wing American Israel Public Affairs Committee.

AIPAC has poured a record $14.5 million into the race, mostly taking aim in television ads at what it claims are Bowman’s far-left stances on economic issues and his vote against Biden’s infrastructure plan.

Jewish groups say they have seen extraordinary interest in the race sparked by Bowman’s criticism of Israel. But Bowman’s campaign says he has strong support from progressive Jews who also object to the conduct of the war in Gaza.

The two candidates have staked their ground on dramatically different demographic portions of the district, which includes all of southern Westchester County and a couple of slices of the Bronx.

Bowman, who first won the seat in a 2020 primary when it included a bigger slice of the Bronx, has leaned heavily on his support among people of color in the Bronx, along with majority minority Westchester cities of Yonkers and Mount Vernon.

“We’ve had huge turnout for phone banks, canvasses, and rallies over the final stretch of the campaign,” said Ravi Mangla, a spokesman for the Working Families Party, which is backing Bowman.

Latimer, a familiar figure to Westchester voters, is relying on the estimated 90% of the district’s voters who will be in the suburban county, including affluent towns like Scarsdale and Rye.

Bowman has leaned heavily in the closing days on lefty star power, appearing at rallies with AOC and Sen. Bernie Sanders.

The self-proclaimed “hip-hop congressman” even dropped a few f-bombs Saturday in his effort to rev up young supporters, warning that Latimer would “find out the power of the m-----f---ing Bronx” on primary day.

That rubbed fellow Bronx Rep. Ritchie Torres the wrong way.

“Unbecoming of a member of Congress,” tweeted Torres, who has been critical of Bowman but has not endorsed either candidate.

Whoever wins is likely to punch a ticket to Washington, D.C., from the deep blue district.

In other contested N.Y. primaries Tuesday, former CNN anchor John Avlon is vying against second-time candidate Nancy Goroff for the Democratic nomination to take on GOP Rep. Nick LaLota in a swing district on the East End of Long Island.

Lauren Gillen is favored in a race with several Democrats for the nomination in NY-04 on the South Shore. The winner will try to topple first-term Rep. Anthony D’Esposito, who is considered one of the most endangered incumbents in the nation because the district leans Democratic.