New York primary puts ‘Squad’ Democrats in crosshairs

Vulnerable Democrats and Republicans will face their first hurdle to reelection with the primaries in New York on June 25, with one “Squad” Democrat preparing for one of the most competitive contests this cycle after record-breaking spending. Among the Democrats running for another term in the Empire State is Rep. Jamaal Bowman (D-NY), whose stance […]

Vulnerable Democrats and Republicans will face their first hurdle to reelection with the primaries in New York on June 25, with one “Squad” Democrat preparing for one of the most competitive contests this cycle after record-breaking spending.

Among the Democrats running for another term in the Empire State is Rep. Jamaal Bowman (D-NY), whose stance on the IsraelHamas war has led to messy attacks and brutal debates between him and his primary opponent. Fellow Squad Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) also faces a tough competitor, though her odds of victory are much higher compared to those of Bowman.

On the Republican side, New York is home to some of the most vulnerable GOP lawmakers in the 2024 election. Redistricting in the state shifted some Republican seats in the Democrats’ favor while making it easier for the GOP to keep control of other districts and, the party hopes, the House majority.

While it is mostly Democrats on the offensive this election cycle, Rep. Claudia Tenney (R-NY) faces a challenge from the right. Eyes will also be on Rep. Brandon Williams (R-NY), whose 22nd Congressional District is the only Republican-held seat rated “lean Democrat” by the Cook Political Report, to see who his Democratic opponent will be come November.

Rep. Jamaal Bowman (D-NY) campaigned in White Plains, New York, on Tuesday, June 11, 2024. (AP Photo/Ted Shaffrey)

Bowman, with target on back, enters primary with low polling

Bowman is facing Westchester County Executive George Latimer in the June 25 primary, a contest that has grown messy as the congressman continues to lose endorsements and support from Jewish groups and their allies over his defense of pro-Palestinian protests and calls for a ceasefire in Gaza.

Bowman’s voting record has also spurned several pro-Israel groups in recent months, including his vote against a resolution condemning support for Hamas and other terrorist organizations on college campuses. He also voted against a separate resolution condemning support for Hamas and reaffirming U.S. support for Israel.

His perceived anti-Israel stance has led the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, one of the largest pro-Israel fundraising groups, to pour nearly $2 million into Latimer’s campaign — the most it has raised for any congressional candidate. The group is also on track to spend nearly $25 million in the race. The 16th Congressional District encompasses a large Jewish population, making the Israel-Hamas war a central campaign issue.

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He also has been targeted from the right side of the aisle, with GOP lawmakers continuing to condemn his actions when Bowman pleaded guilty to pulling a fire alarm in one of the congressional office buildings in Washington, D.C., shortly before lawmakers were scheduled to meet to vote on avoiding a government shutdown.

Bowman’s campaign also took a hit when a fellow progressive and former Rep. Mondaire Jones endorsed Latimer over the incumbent, arguing that it was because of Bowman’s stance on Israel he could not support him in his reelection.

The Congressional Progressive Caucus PAC rescinded its endorsement of Jones shortly after he endorsed Latimer, with Chairwoman Pramila Jayapal (D-WA) saying she was “disgusted” with Jones’s decision. Hillary Clinton also endorsed Latimer, drawing ire from congressional progressives, too.

Bowman’s primary is the most expensive this cycle, with outside spending in the primary for New York’s 16th District hitting over $11.3 million, according to Federal Election Commission filings. Most of the money has gone toward pro-Latimer and anti-Bowman ads.

The 16th District is a solidly Democratic seat, so whoever wins between Bowman and Latimer is favored to win the general election this November. However, the incumbent has an uphill battle to win reelection, with the race likely to be a narrow win for the victor.

A recent poll from Emerson College Polling, PIX11, and the Hill found that Bowman is 17 points behind Latimer, with 31% to the county executive’s 48%. Latimer also has a higher favorability rating at 65% compared to Bowman’s 51%.

Gov. Kathy Hochul (D-NY) has notably not endorsed in any Democratic primaries, though her support of either Bowman or Latimer would likely carry weight enough to shift the contest in either direction.

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) speaks before President Joe Biden at Prince William Forest Park on Earth Day, Monday, April 22, 2024, in Triangle, Virginia. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

AOC faces centrist challenger with backing of conservatives

Ocasio-Cortez, the youngest woman ever to serve in Congress, is squaring off against Marty Dolan, a 66-year-old investment banker who describes himself as progressive but not “radical” — a word he would use to describe the congresswoman, per USA Today.

Dolan is considered a political newcomer, meaning he faces an uphill battle to unseat Ocasio-Cortez, who is seeking a third term after defeating a 10-term incumbent in a major primary upset in 2018. Though he is a Democrat, he is benefiting from the actions of conservative groups who have long tried to oust Ocasio-Cortez, who is arguably a headache for GOP lawmakers and Republican agendas.

Most recently, Job Creators Network, a conservative business group, spent $100,000 on billboards in Times Square slamming Ocasio-Cortez’s record and encouraging primary voters to vote for Dolan. A similar strategy worked well for Democrats, who bolstered hard-line candidates in the 2022 primaries who eventually lost to their Democratic opponents in the midterm elections — giving the GOP a slim House majority and staving off the predicted “red wave.”

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Ocasio-Cortez has mostly spent the primary ignoring her opponent, refusing to debate with him. Dolan’s chances at unseating her are a long shot, given Ocasio-Cortez won 74.6% of the vote in her last primary challenge in 2020. She also has the upper hand in finances, with about $5 million in cash on hand compared to Dolan’s $6,700, per campaign finance records.

Rep. Brandon Williams (R-NY) speaks during a session at the COP28 U.N. Climate Summit, Saturday, Dec. 9, 2023, in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. (AP Photo/Joshua A. Bickel)

Redistricting creates losing path for Williams

Republicans championed redistricting in many states, including New York, as their path to growing their slim House majority in 2024. In New York, redistricting helped push seats such as those held by Republican Conference Chairwoman Elise Stefanik (R-NY) and Rep. Marc Molinaro (R-NY) further into GOP hands while at the same time turning incumbent Williams into the most vulnerable Republican in the conference.

Williams’s 22nd Congressional District is a purple seat, a critical piece to the puzzle if Democrats wish to take back the lower chamber in 2024. The House seat has been held by Democrats only four times in the last 44 years despite voting for a Democrat in every presidential election for over three decades. It has been in Republican hands since 2014.

With redistricting, however, the seat shifted to “lean Democrat,” giving the Democratic primary candidates double the fervor to win the first contest in preparation for the general election. Facing each other in Tuesday’s primary are state Sen. John Mannion and DeWitt Town Councilor Sarah Klee Hood.

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Democratic voters in the 22nd District are focusing mostly on which candidate will not fumble the party’s chance to flip the seat this cycle rather than the typical policy areas such as inflation, the Israel-Hamas war, and others.

“Democrats across the board have realized that this race has gotten screwed up a lot over the years,” Syracuse City Auditor Alex Marion, who has endorsed Mannion, told Politico. “People really want to make sure we get this right because the road to this perilously close House majority could run right through central New York.”

Both Hood and Mannion have drawn attention to their attributes that they believe can best flip the seat blue — Hood being a woman who can “excite” voters and Mannion being a Democratic state senator who represents a majority of Republicans.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, House Democrats’ campaign arm, has already opened a field office in the district to pivot immediately to winning the general election once the primary is over, Politico reported.


Other seats to watch on Tuesday are in the 1st District, where Rep. Nick LaLota (R-NY) will find out if he will face former CNN commentator John Avlon or Nancy Goroff, the 2020 Democratic nominee in the district who lost to former Republican Rep. Lee Zeldin.

In the 24th District, Tenney is one of the only Republicans facing a primary challenge. Attorney Mario Fratto is looking to unseat the congresswoman, who has the backing of House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-LA), Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH), and others. Fratto has competed against Tenney before, earning 40% of the vote in a three-way competition against her in 2022.

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