Spending on Bowman-Latimer primary tops $22M as outside groups pour money into hot race

The tense primary between Rep. Jamaal Bowman and challenger George Latimer has surged to new spending heights as the candidates and their allies fill TVs, phones and mailboxes with their messages in the race's final days.

The combined tab for the high-profile Democratic battle in New York's 16th Congressional district had passed $22 million as of Monday, according to federal records, with early voting underway and eight days to go before the June 25 election. It had become the nation's most expensive House primary this year and was likely to get costlier still before the last votes are cast.

The single biggest source was the United Democracy Project, a pro-Israel Super PAC that had so far reported pouring $11.6 million into commercials and mailings for Latimer and against Bowman, according to the Federal Election Commission. The second-term progressive and "squad" member from Yonkers was a prime target for the group because of his vocal criticism of Israel's war against Hamas in Gaza.

Latimer, the Westchester County executive, also has benefited from $1.1 million in spending by another pro-Israel group — Democratic Majority for Israel — and $2.1 million by a group promoting crypto-currency.

Westchester County Executive George Latimer, candidate for New York's 16th Congressional District, is interviewed by journalists at the The Journal News/lohud offices in West Harrison May 23, 2024.
Westchester County Executive George Latimer, candidate for New York's 16th Congressional District, is interviewed by journalists at the The Journal News/lohud offices in West Harrison May 23, 2024.

Progressive groups have scrambled to counter the barrage with their own ads and other support for Bowman. The Working Families Party and Justice Democrats each spent nearly $700,000 to bolster him. Another $500,000 in combined aid came from fellow New Yorker and squad-mate Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez; the Congressional Progressive Caucus; and a Muslim-American Advocacy Group.

But the spending tallies are lopsided. Outside groups backing Latimer had outspent Bowman's allies by 7-to-1.

Making their closing pitches

Latimer, who has held elected offices in Westchester for more than 35 years, is campaigning in the homestretch with the same main message he used to start his House bid in December. "Results not rhetoric" is still his slogan, distilling his argument that he has a proven record as an effective leader and can accomplish more for the district in Washington than Bowman has.

Rep. Jamaal Bowman D NY-16, brings his hands together after casting his vote on the first day of early voting in Westchester, at the New Rochelle City Hall Annex on Beaufort Place in New Rochelle, June 15, 2024.
Rep. Jamaal Bowman D NY-16, brings his hands together after casting his vote on the first day of early voting in Westchester, at the New Rochelle City Hall Annex on Beaufort Place in New Rochelle, June 15, 2024.

Bowman has honed his own pithy message, one that takes aim at Latimer's outside support and casts a populist spin. "This is the many versus the money," he proclaims in a new ad, condemning the flood of funding from well-heeled interests for his opponent and claiming the support of everyday people in the district.

Wide gap: Latimer leads Bowman by 17 points in poll days before voting starts in heated primary

Each is touting high-profile endorsements on either side of the ideological split between progressives and more centrist Democrats. Hillary Clinton, who lives in Westchester, backed Latimer last week, while progressive icon Sen. Bernie Sanders — Clinton's rival for the 2016 presidential nomination — is supporting Bowman.

Sanders is even taking part in two rallies for Bowman this week, first in Hastings-on-Hudson on Friday and then in the Bronx on Saturday, where Ocasio-Cortez will join him.

Breaking down the numbers

The two candidates have spent a combined roughly $6 million of their own campaign cash as of June 6, according to their federal reports. That includes $3.2 million Latimer had shelled out since launching his challenge and $2.8 million Bowman had spent since Oct. 1, as the prospect of a serious primary challenge began to loom.

The bulk of the more than $22 million in spending was done by outside groups, independent of the two campaigns.

More than $9 million of outside spending went into attack ads and mailings against Bowman, compared to $1 million in anti-Latimer efforts. Both slates of allies also have run positive messages to praise their preferred candidates: $5.4 million in pro-Latimer spending and $1 million in pro-Bowman expenses.

Fundraising surge: Pro-Israel and local donors power Latimer to big lead over Bowman in funds for primary

One of the newest spenders to join the fray was a group called Fairshake, which spent $2.1 million skewering Bowman in a TV ad. The group was formed to support Congress members who support the crypto-currency industry, although you wouldn't know if from the ad. That topic doesn't come up at all, and it hasn't been an issue on which Bowman and Latimer have staked out opposing stances.

The pro-Israel groups buying ads in the race also have generally steered clear of their main topic — support for Israel and candidate stances on the Israel-Hamas war — and focused on other reasons to praise Latimer or criticize Bowman.

Chris McKenna covers government and politics for The Journal News and USA Today Network. Reach him at cmckenna@gannett.com.

This article originally appeared on Rockland/Westchester Journal News: Bowman-Latimer primary spending tops $22M as outside cash pours in

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