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Jamaal Bowman Loses Primary After AIPAC Poured Record $14.5M Into Race

AIPAC, Israel’s largest US lobbying group, made this race the most expensive House primary in history.

Rep. Jamaal Bowman speaks during a campaign event at Hartley Park on June 24, 2024, in Mount Vernon, New York.

Rep. Jamaal Bowman (D-New York) lost his primary on Tuesday after Israel’s largest U.S. lobbying group made his race the most expensive House primary in history, pouring nearly $15 million to oust one of the few progressive critics of Israel in Congress as the country carries out a horrific genocidal assault in Gaza.

As of Wednesday morning, Bowman had garnered 42 percent of the vote, compared to 58 percent for his opponent, businessman and local politician George Latimer, a vocal supporter of Israel. AP called the race on Tuesday night.

The American Israel Public Affairs Committee’s (AIPAC) super PAC, United Democracy Project, had poured a record $14.5 million into defeating Bowman — the most a single group has ever spent on a House race. This amounted to over half a million dollars every day, or about $17,000 every hour, to oust a single lawmaker in a chamber that already has a near-consensus majority of Israel supporters.

Together, three super PACS — United Democracy Project, the Democratic Majority for Israel and pro-cryptocurrency group FairShake — spent $18 million to defeat Bowman.

“We should not be well adjusted to a sick society,” Bowman said in his concession speech. “We should be outraged. We should be outraged when a Super PAC of dark money can spend $20 million to brainwash people into believing something that isn’t true. We should be outraged about that.”

“This will be a battle about our humanity and justice for the rest of our lives,” he said.

Fellow progressive “squad” members like Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-New York), who handily won her primary election on Tuesday, had backed Bowman and criticized corruption of AIPAC and its historic ability to buy primary wins to defeat progressive candidates. AIPAC had previously tried to offer multiple people in Michigan $20 million to oust Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D), the only Palestinian American in Congress.

As progressives and Bowman himself have noted, the race wasn’t just about Bowman versus Latimer — the latter of whom made a number of brazenly racist comments in recent weeks — but rather, Bowman and progressive, pro-Palestine lawmakers versus AIPAC and the power of the dark money-allied political establishment.

Further, it was not just a race about pro- or anti-Zionist ideologies, but also about moneyed interests hacking away at the small progressive coalition in Congress, commentators noted. Indeed, a number of Latimer’s donors were Republicans who had also spent money to support other pro-Israel candidates in recent races.

Bowman’s loss is thus a bad sign for progressives, and a good sign for AIPAC and other groups seeking to oust progressive lawmakers, who now have a strong test case for the strategy of pouring a huge cache of money into a race in order to secure a win.

Democratic leaders had declined to back Bowman in his race despite their supposed vow to support Democratic incumbents — a vow that only seems to be invoked when it’s used against progressive candidates, as it was when Bowman was first elected in 2020, when he primaried a centrist democrat to become the first Black person to represent his district.

Advocates for Palestinian rights called for Democrats to recognize the vast power that AIPAC has over politics and reject their influence.

“The progressive policies that Congressman Bowman is fighting for, including unapologetic support for Palestinian rights, are so popular that AIPAC and other corporate Super PACs had to spend more money than has ever been spent in a Congressional primary in order to win,” said Jewish Voice for Peace Action Political Director Beth Miller in a statement. “It is long past time for the Democratic party leadership to catch up to its base and reject AIPAC.”

Next in AIPAC’s crosshairs is Rep. Cori Bush (D-Missouri), a strong supporter of Palestinian rights who had first introduced legislation calling for a ceasefire in Gaza in October. United Democracy Project has already spent $2 million on Bush’s primary election, which will take place in August.

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