Bowman and Latimer Use Final Debate to Air Differences on Israel and Race

Fighting for his political life ahead of next week’s New York primary, Representative Jamaal Bowman took broad swipes on Tuesday at his opponent in the contest’s final debate, accusing him of failing Black constituents and selling his campaign out to a pro-Israel super PAC.

Mr. Bowman, who is Black, charged that George Latimer, his white challenger, had slow-walked desegregation as Westchester County executive and had done too little to close the wealth gap between Black and white families.

He repeatedly sought to portray Mr. Latimer as a lackey of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, the bipartisan pro-Israel lobby that has spent a record-shattering $14 million trying to defeat Mr. Bowman over his criticisms of Israel.

“He claims to be a Democrat, but he is supported by racist MAGA Republicans who support taking your voting rights — gutting your abortion rights,” Mr. Bowman, 48, said, referring to some of the group’s conservative donors.

Mr. Latimer, 70, was having none of it. He forcefully denied each claim, saying that Mr. Bowman was “cornering the market on lies” in a desperate attempt to reverse a race that polls indicate he is losing. He trumpeted his own record producing affordable housing and investing in communities of color.

“This is an example of using race as a weapon,” Mr. Latimer said at one point. “What we need to do is bring people together.”

The hourlong debate hosted by the television station PIX11 was a fitting coda to an exceedingly caustic contest that has laid bare Democrats’ deep divisions over the war in Gaza, but also race, class and ideology. The district in the Bronx and Westchester County contains some of the nation’s wealthiest white suburbs and an influential Jewish community, but nearly half its residents are African American or Latino.

The winner of the primary is expected to easily hold the overwhelmingly Democratic district in November’s general election.

On Tuesday, the two candidates once again laid out sharply divergent views on the Israel-Hamas war.

Mr. Bowman reiterated positions that have inspired AIPAC’s attacks and caused many local Jewish leaders to abandon him. He once again condemned Hamas but characterized Israel’s war as a “genocide” and urged President Biden to “stop all funding” to the American ally.

Mr. Latimer, on the other hand, said Hamas was largely to blame for the more than 30,000 civilian casualties in Gaza and defended Mr. Biden’s approach.

The exchange grew heated.

Mr. Bowman accused Mr. Latimer of ignoring Palestinian suffering. “Say ‘Palestine,’” he said. “Acknowledge the Palestinian people. Let me see you do that.”

“I can say the word ‘Palestine,’” Mr. Latimer retorted. “Can you say the word ‘truth’?”

Later, when pressed by a moderator, Mr. Latimer also offered measured criticism of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, saying the Israeli leader was “wrong” to attack Mr. Biden for holding up weapon transfers.

There were other areas of policy disagreement.

Mr. Latimer said that an executive order that prevents migrants from seeking asylum at the U.S.-Mexico border when crossings surge was “a step in the right direction.” Mr. Bowman, though, said he was alarmed Mr. Biden was “taking a conservative approach.”

The congressman reiterated his support for a bill that would disburse $14 trillion in reparations to offset the continued harm of slavery. Mr. Latimer said he supported studying the matter but said the legislation backed by his opponent was “not a serious bill.”

And while Mr. Latimer said he opposed opening supervised injection sites in Westchester County, like those in New York City, Mr. Bowman said he supported them.

At other points, the candidates reopened old fights over racial representation.

In the last debate, Mr. Latimer accused Mr. Bowman, a member of the House’s left-wing “squad,” of ignoring constituents “who are not Black or brown.” The congressman called the charge racist at the time, and on Tuesday he added that it was also baseless.

“We represent the entire district,” Mr. Bowman said, adding, “I do pay extra attention to the parts of the district that he has been trying to keep segregated for decades and he has neglected his entire career.”

Mr. Latimer, who has especially strong support among suburban white voters, sought to convey that he understood and valued the perspectives of other groups.

“I have major African Americans in positions of importance,” he said.

Mr. Bowman’s allies, at least, were unimpressed. They quickly turned the quote into a social media meme, splicing together an image of Mr. Latimer with a mug shot of former President Donald J. Trump.

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