Westchester County Executive George Latimer

George Latimer is challenging Rep. Jamaal Bowman (D-N.Y.) in the Democratic primary to be held June 25 for New York's 16th District in the U.S. House of Representatives. He was accused of Islamophobia after a debate with Bowman on June 10, 2024.

(Photo: Jeenah Moon for The Washington Post via Getty Images)

Bowman Opponent Accused of 'Straight Up Islamophobia' During Debate

George Latimer said that Rep. Jamaal Bowman's constituency was "Dearborn, Michigan." Later, Bowman said that "this Islamophobic dogwhistle shows the difference between my opponent and me."

George Latimer, who is challenging Rep. Jamaal Bowman in a Democratic primary in New York's 16th Congressional District, was accused of Islamophobia following a debate Monday night in which he said that Bowman's constituency was Dearborn, Michigan—a majority Arab-American city.

Latimer has received more money from the the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) than any other candidate in the country this cycle and, in contrast to Bowman (D-N.Y.), has taken strongly pro-Israel positions, drawing the ire of progressives and Arab-American groups. His latest comments, in an online debate on Monday, came during an attack on Bowman for purportedly not being engaged enough in the district's communities.

"What [Bowman's] done is give speeches all across the country," Latimer said. "When you get as much money as you get from outside the district, your constituency is Dearborn, Michigan. Your constituency is San Francisco, California. It's not Harrison. It's not Tuckahoe. It's not Scarsdale. You're not even there to be part of the events of those communities."

Mehdi Hasan, founder of Zeteo News, said Latimer was engaging in "straight up Islamophobia."

The Arab American Institute also rebuked Latimer's comments. "Shame on Latimer for thinking the city with the highest concentration of Arab Americans is a way to attack Bowman," the group wrote on social media. "We're everyone's constituency and anti-Arab racism must be condemned."

John Nichols, political correspondent for The Nation, said the approach by Latimer should be revealing for New Yorkers in the district.

"Latimer is running as a Democrat, while relying on Republican attack lines" against Bowman, observed Nichols, while Bowman "is running as a Democrat who rejects Republican attack lines. That should make the task easier for Democratic primary voters."

Bowman, a member of the left-wing 'Squad' in the U.S. House of Representatives and a primary electoral target of pro-Israel groups, himself voiced a similar sentiment, arguing that "this Islamophobic dogwhistle shows the difference between my opponent and me."

"I love our Muslim and Arab neighbors in NY16 just like I love our Jewish, white, and Black neighbors here and across the country," Bowman wrote. "I'm fighting for all of us."

During the debate, Bowman also drew attention to other issues. For example, he attacked Latimer for failing to support higher taxes on the rich.

"My opponent does not support President [Joe] Biden's initiative to raise taxes on the wealthy," Bowman said, according toNews12 Westchester. "He supports Donald Trump's tax cuts, which is unacceptable for any Democrat to be in this seat or any seat across the country."

Despite Latimer's claim that Bowman was receiving outside money, it is he, the Westchester County official and former member of the New York state senate, who has benefited from the overwhelming majority of outside funds coming into the race, most notably $9,297,987 from the United Democracy Project, AIPAC's super PAC, according to OpenSecrets data.

The Democratic primary will be held on June 25. The winner will be heavily favored to defeat the Republican candidate in November—Bowman did so by nearly 30 points in 2022.

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