New York State redrew its district lines for Congress in late May because of the 2020 census, causing a delay in the congressional primaries in the state. Many people are unaware of the ramifications of this action.
Surprise! You’re in NY-16, Not NY-17
The first surprise is that people in lower Westchester are now in New York congressional district No. 16, not 17. The new district lines run roughly from the border of New York City up to a few miles north of Interstate-287, and include the Wakefield section of the Bronx.
This district is roughly 42% White, 27% Hispanic and 21% Black, with a small percentage of Asians and others. The Black community is principally in the southern part of the district, closer to New York City.
Surprise! Rep. Jamaal Bowman Is Your Congressman
Rep. Jamaal Bowman is the incumbent in NY-16, but much of the district is new for him. While he continues to have a base of support from his 2020 run, located in the Bronx, Yonkers and Mount Vernon, the northern portion of the new NY-16 was previously in NY-17 and represented by Rep. Mondaire Jones.
Because Bowman does not have a built-in base in the district which would normally benefit an incumbent, a couple of local politicians have entered the race to unseat him.
Surprise! Democratic Primaries Are on August 23 With Early Voting Beginning August 13
While many people in New York think they already voted in primaries several weeks ago, the congressional primary is on a separate date to afford the candidates time to assemble a campaign. The date chosen for the primary is deep in the summer, when many people are on vacation and others are running off to university. Primary day is likely to have a very low voter turnout, meaning that every vote counts that much more.
Fight One—Bowman vs. Others
Bowman’s policies are deeply unpopular in much of the district. His calls to “Defund the Police,” “Abolish ICE [Immigration and Customs Enforcement],” open U.S. borders and teach critical race theory in schools are all echoes of his fellow far-left “Squad” comrades. Further, voting against the Infrastructure Bill—and then subsequently lying to his constituents that he voted for it—left a bad taste for many. His bad track record providing constituent services adds to his weak candidacy.
Catherine Parker is one of the Democrats challenging Bowman. She has been a member of the Westchester Board of Legislators since 2013, and has consistently voiced her disapproval of Bowman’s votes on numerous issues, such as the infrastructure bill, saying Bowman’s “protest vote spoke more of his unwillingness to accept compromise than actually accomplishing anything.”
Parker believes that her nine years of experience in Westchester not only give her a solid base of support and a track record of serving her constituents, but are likely critical in working across the aisle in congress, as Democrats are likely to lose a large number of seats during November elections.
Vedat Gashi is also running in the Democratic primary to unseat Bowman, having jumped in many months ago. He was able to get a number of endorsements and raise significant funds as people in Westchester were eager to retire Bowman. Unfortunately, both he and his base have fallen outside of the final district lines, making his path to victory more complicated.
Fight Two—Parker vs. Gashi
While much of Westchester despises the thought of being represented by a member of the Socialist Squad, the pro-Israel community is fighting amongst themselves regarding supporting the two contenders.
Bowman has a terrible track record on Israel. He cosponsored legislation calling the founding of Israel a ‘Nakba,” a catastrophe. He voted against supporting the Abraham Accords, in which Israel made peace with four new countries. He voted against supplying Israel with weapons amidst a wave of attacks from a designated foreign terrorist group. And he has almost the identical voting record as two of the most alt-left, antisemitic members of Congress, Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) and Ilhan Omar (D-MN).
In sharp contrast, both Gashi and Parker have made statements which are pro-Israel and against antisemitism. Parker said clearly that she would take money from AIPAC, as her views on Israel are in line with the pro-Israel organization.
Gashi supporters point to his endorsements and more money raised than Parker as demonstrating a higher probability of winning. Parker’s supporters note that Gashi’s advantages are simply because he’s been in the race twice as long as Parker, but she is catching up. With an established base in the district and more women traditionally voting in primaries, Parker may have the better path to defeating Bowman.
But it is all beside the point. The only likely path to defeating Bowman would require one of the two to drop out, making it a head-to-head race. Supporters of Gashi are lobbying Parker to drop out and Parker supporters are urging the same of Gashi. While everyone seems to like both candidates, they are simultaneously angry at both for effectively paving a pathway for Bowman’s victory.
Neither Gashi nor Parker will likely drop out. They will both ask their supporters for funds in a cause they know is doomed, as each candidate benefits from enhanced name recognition and the ability to bank the extra funds for another race in the future. Bowman will win a district that hates him.
Another result is that the Jewish community will turn on itself, pointing fingers at supporters of the opposing candidate for not getting their candidate to back down. They will scream at AIPAC and DMFI (Democratic Majority for Israel) for not stepping forward to endorse one of the candidates to galvanize support for a shot at the difficult road to victory, since the groups don’t want to offend potential donors to its PAC from wealthy Westchester.
What is not likely, but should happen, is a focused game plan for 2024. The community needs to build alliances with moderate Democratic politicians who will be willing to run against Bowman in the next cycle. The process cannot be fought in the last months of the race, but over the next two years.
Members of the community should also keep Bowman’s email and office numbers: (202) 225-2464 and (914) 371-9220 handy to constantly inform him of their views on important topics. People in Congress must know that people are watching and are holding them accountable.
There will be no election surprises, and hopefully only a single fight to defeat the alt-left extremist who is poised to become your voice in congress.
By Lawrence Askowitz