Bowman, in his fight for his political life, embraces the star power of the left

He cracked jokes on “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert,” spewed verses the next day with rapper Cash Cobain and spent Friday in friendly territory with a well-known ally, Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont.

The climax was set for Saturday, when Representative Jamaal Bowman of New York was scheduled to rally in the Bronx with two of the biggest names on the left: Mr. Sanders and Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

Overpowered on the airwaves and behind in the polls, Mr. Bowman is leaning heavily on national star power in a last-minute bid to change the trajectory of one of the nation’s most hotly contested Democratic primaries.

“They have money,” said Mr. Bowman, 48, exploded at the event with Mr. Sanders on Friday in Hastings-on-Hudson, just north of his hometown, Yonkers. “We have a lot.”

The megawatt events highlighted the sharp contrasts between the congressman and his opponent, George Latimer, but they also showed how the candidates are betting on two very different paths to victory, in a district split between affluent suburbs and working-class neighborhoods, and between white, black and Latino voters.

Rather than moving toward the party center, Mr. Bowman reiterated the left-leaning positions that helped make him a national figure. He spoke out against the American-Israel Public Affairs Committee’s record spending against him and an entrenched establishment, all in hopes of increasing turnout among progressives and voters of color.

Mr. Latimer, a mid-level Democrat and Westchester County executive, is largely heading into the primary on Tuesday alone, with no tinsel in sight.

He entered the final days of the race with enough confidence in his own older suburban base to have ventured several times into Co-Op City in the Bronx and Mr. Bowman’s own backyard, he said. offering as a drama-free alternative to the two-term incumbent. While pro-Israel political groups hit Mr. Bowman with $15 million in negative ads, all Mr. Latimer, 70, has had to stay out of the news.

He gave his own musical performance in front of a few hundred seniors at the Ukrainian Youth Center in Yonkers, a surprisingly smooth version of “On the Street Where You Live,” from “My Fair Lady.”

The tune, obviously, was the message.

“That’s all that makes the difference between us,” said Mr. Latimer then said, gesturing to the banquet hall around him. “I’m the local guy. This seems counterintuitive considering our age or demographics. But he is much more a person who has cultivated a national image.”

Mr. Latimer entered the race last fall, largely because Jewish leaders urged him to oppose Mr. Bowman’s open criticism of Israel’s war with Israel. Hamas. But he consistently highlighted local issues, singling out Mr. Bowman for voting against President Biden’s major infrastructure bills that promised to help rebuild roads and replace old pipes in the District, and for neglecting parts of the district with large numbers of white residents.

Mr. Bowman, the first black person to represent the district in Congress, bristled at that characterization and leveled accusations of racism against Mr. Bowman. Latimer.

But in recent days, Mr. Bowman has also sought to mix in levity. He jumped up and down while rapping on stage during the concert his campaign organized to ignite young voters in a heavily Latino region. He played basketball with young boys in the Bronx. Videographers using high-tech equipment captured it all.

On Friday, in sweltering heat, Mr. Sanders’ first campaign appearance in the district was brief, but it underscored the stakes for the left.

“Even if you don’t agree with Jamaal on this or that issue, vote for Jamaal,” he told a few hundred supporters gathered in a waterfront park. “The most important part of this election is that we have the courage as a people to stand up to the oligarchs and tell these billionaires that they will not control our government.”

The message resonated with Mr. Bowman’s supporters, even some calling themselves Jewish.

“AIPAC’s funding of Latimer really turned me off a lot,” said Sasha Fuller, 23. “He’s a more traditional corporate Democrat, so I don’t really support his policies.”

Sharon Diamond, 75, said she found the whole contest unfortunate.

“I was struck when AIPAC nominated George Latimer to run,” she said. “At this point, in my opinion, the Democratic Party should be focused on November, not on someone challenging an incumbent president who has worked hard and done well for this district.”

The rally with Mr. Sanders and Ms. Ocasio-Cortez was scheduled to take place on Saturday several miles to the south, outside Mr. Bowman’s district, and to focus again on AIPAC’s role in the primary.

But in a sign of how deeply the conflict has fractured the left, organizers were also preparing for a demonstration by Within Our Lifetime, a pro-Palestinian group.

In a post promoting the protest on social networking site X, the group called the three “betrayal politicians who trade Palestinian lives for votes.”

AIPAC’s involvement in the race has highlighted interest among Jewish voters, and there have been signs of strong early voter turnout in that area, which is likely a good sign for Mr. Latimer.

The Teach Coalition, a group that advocates for yeshivas and other Jewish schools, and an affiliated PAC spent $1 during the race to register 2,000 Republicans and independents as Democrats and then promote Jewish participation. It seemed to be paying off.

The group estimated Friday that Jewish voters most likely accounted for 36 percent of all early votes cast so far, although they represent only 9 percent of the district’s total voter pool.

Coalition leader Maury Litwack stressed that the turnout was nonpartisan, but he added: “Anyone watching this race will say that the overwhelming sentiment in the Jewish community leans toward Latimer over Bowman. »

Mr. Latimer also appeared to be in good standing among the diverse group of seniors he met in Yonkers, who greeted him with applause. Many have said they have followed his career for decades.

“He is a unifier, not a divider,” said Susan Greenberg, a retired health care administrator from Hastings-on-Hudson. “It goes back a long way.”

Kenneth Diaz, a real estate agent in Yonkers and a self-described “Bernie guy” who was with Mr. Latimer, said the race had been “tough to watch.” He argued Mr Bowman is interested in the past and thinks he is right about the war in Gaza.

But Mr. Diaz said Mr. Bowman lost his status in his eyes when he pulled a fire alarm in a House office building last fall as he rushed to the Capitol. The false alarm threw Congress into chaos and resulted in a misdemeanor charge, yet another embarrassing note for a country. Diaz fears losing his civility.

“It was a stupid thing to do,” he said. “I know why this was done, but it still doesn’t fit the position.”

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