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Letters-to-the-Editor & Commentary

AIPAC’s Money Is Not Welcome In CD-16

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December 8, 2023

Despite the backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic, the 2020 elections provided so much hope for those of us committed to building a more fair and just government that works for all Americans.

Joe Biden’s victory over Donald Trump gave us a leader who actually respected American democracy and who would use his perch to better the lives of our fellow citizens instead of enriching his own friends and family. And down-ballot, a new crop of young, energetic Democratic politicians emerged, especially in Congress. Politicians who were elected on the promise of a new, exciting vision that includes all of us, not just the wealthy and well-connected.

Now, four years later, things feel far less hopeful. We did not dispense with the looming specter of fascism; Trump is by far the most likely Republican nominee and is planning an authoritarian takeover of our entire government bureaucracy if elected. And now, many of that new crop of multiracial progressive Democrats is coming under threat from a planned $100 million spending spree from the American Israel Public Affairs Committee.

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For the unfamiliar, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, or AIPAC, has endorsed over 100 insurrectionist members of Congress and spent over $20 million against progressive candidates of color in 2020, as much as all other Super PACs spent in Democratic primaries combined. Much of this money is raised from far-right, pro-Trump Republican mega donors like Bernie Marcus and Sheldon Adelson.

One of those Democrats AIPAC is targeting this cycle is Jamaal Bowman, who represents parts of Westchester, including the synagogue my family has attended for decades. According to reporting, AIPAC has recruited County Executive George Latimer to run against Rep. Bowman, and AIPAC is off to a fast start making sure the race is as acrimonious as possible, already running misleading attack ads against Rep. Bowman online.

Aside from their differing opinions on how strongly to support Netanyahu’s government as it carries out its war in Gaza, no specific policy disagreement has been cited as a reason for the primary campaign. Chatter about the race has been entirely devoid of any discussions of domestic issues, which will undoubtedly be mostly what the Congressmember from New York’s 16th Congressional District will be focused on when the 118th Congress is seated, no matter who wins the primary.

Since the 2022 midterm elections, activists across New York have been gearing up to take the House of Representatives back from Republican control. Now, just as those elections are about to begin in earnest, George Latimer is beginning a primary that threatens to tear apart the Democratic coalition.

This primary will undoubtedly be fought between generational and racial divides. Rep. Bowman has a strong base of Black and brown support in the Bronx, and in many of the diverse metro areas in Southern Westchester like Mount Vernon and New Rochelle. As an educator, he also derives much of his support from young voters, who poll after poll show overwhelmingly support a ceasefire and hew closer to Rep. Bowman’s position on the war than they do to County Executive Latimer.

If you pay even glancing attention to electoral politics, then you know that energizing young voters and turning out Black and brown communities are two of the key pillars to Democratic success in elections. Now, we have a primary, funded AIPAC, dedicated to opposing the candidate of choice for these core Democratic constituencies.

George Latimer can run for any seat he is eligible to run for, as is his right in our democracy. But the millions of dollars AIPAC plans to spend will inevitably make this primary more divisive and nastier, not to mention the toxic effect that kind of spending has on our elections. If George Latimer wants to run for Congress while so many of us are focusing our efforts on taking back the House, he is entitled to do so. But he should do so on his own and reject the millions of dollars in support from right-wing donors that AIPAC is offering.

Jill Levy-Fisch


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