Bowman, in Fight for His Political Life, Embraces the Left’s Star Power

Bowman, in Fight for His Political Life, Embraces the Left’s Star Power

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

The capper was set for Saturday, when Representative Jamaal Bowman of New York was scheduled to rally in the Bronx with two of the left’s biggest names: 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 alter the trajectory of one of the nation’s most hotly contested Democratic primaries.

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

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

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

Mr. Latimer, a middle-of-the-road Democrat and the Westchester County executive, is largely grinding toward the primary on Tuesday alone with no tinsel in sight.

He entered the race’s final days with enough confidence in his own older, suburban base that he has repeatedly ventured into Co-Op City in the Bronx and Mr. Bowman’s own backyard, offering himself as a drama-free alternative to the two-term incumbent. With pro-Israel political groups pummeling Mr. Bowman with $15 million in negative ads, all Mr. Latimer, 70, has had to do is not make news.

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

The tune, evidently, was the message.

“This is everything about the difference between us,” Mr. Latimer said afterward, gesturing at the banquet hall around him. “I am the local guy. It seems counterintuitive if you look at our ages or demographics. But he is much more a person who has cultivated a national image.”

Mr. Latimer jumped into the race last fall, in large part because he was being urged by Jewish leaders to oppose Mr. Bowman’s outspoken criticism of Israel’s war with Hamas. But he has consistently highlighted local issues, knocking 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, has bristled at the characterization and has lobbed accusations of racism at Mr. Latimer.

But in recent days, Mr. Bowman has also sought to mix in levity. He jumped up and down as he rapped onstage at the concert that his campaign threw to fire up young voters in a heavily Latino area. He shot hoops with young boys in the Bronx. Videographers wielding high-tech equipment captured it all.

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

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

The message resonated with Mr. Bowman’s supporters, even some who said they were Jewish.

“The funding toward Latimer from AIPAC has definitely turned me off a lot,” said Sasha Fuller, 23. “He’s kind of a more traditional corporate Democrat, so I don’t really support his politics.”

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

“I was stricken when AIPAC drafted George Latimer to run,” she said. “The Democratic Party at this point, in my opinion, should be focused on November, not on somebody challenging an incumbent who has worked hard and done well for this district.”

The rally with Mr. Sanders and Ms. Ocasio-Cortez on Saturday was to take place several miles to the south, outside Mr. Bowman’s district, and to again focus 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 protest by Within Our Lifetime, a pro-Palestinian group.

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

AIPAC’s involvement in the race has underscored the interest of Jewish voters, and there were signs of strong early-voter turnout from that sector, most likely a good sign for Mr. Latimer.

The Teach Coalition, a group that advances the interests of yeshivas and other Jewish schools, and an affiliated PAC spent $1 million over the course of the race to register 2,000 Republicans and independents as Democrats and then promote Jewish turnout. It appeared to be paying dividends.

The group estimated on Friday that Jewish voters had most likely accounted for 36 percent of all early votes cast so far, despite making up just 9 percent of the district’s total voter pool.

The coalition’s leader, Maury Litwack, emphasized that the turnout drive was nonpartisan, but he added, “Anybody looking at this race would say the overwhelming feeling of the Jewish community leans toward Latimer, versus Bowman.”

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

“He’s a unifier and not divisive,” said Susan Greenberg, a retired health care administrator from Hastings-on-Hudson. “It goes way back.”

Kenneth Diaz, a real estate agent in Yonkers and self-described “Bernie guy” who was at Mr. Latimer’s event, said the race had been “hard to watch.” He supported Mr. Bowman eagerly in the past and thinks he is right about the war in Gaza.

But Mr. Diaz said Mr. Bowman had lost standing 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 sent Congress into chaos and resulted in a misdemeanor charge, one more embarrassing note for a country Mr. Diaz fears is losing its civility.

“It was a bone-headed thing to do,” he said. “I know why it was done, but still, it’s not befitting the position.”

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