MAGA Loves Jamaal Bowman’s Opponent

Deep-pocketed right-wing Trump backers eager to drive a progressive from Congress are swelling the campaign coffers of George Latimer, Rep. Jamaal Bowman’s challenger in the 16th congressional district of New York.

George Latimer speaking in New York on August 7, 2023. (Lev Radin / Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images)

“Help me defeat the Squad,” Republican Steve Louro wrote, announcing a May 16 fundraiser at the home of fellow Republican David Bercow, in Armonk, an upscale suburb in Westchester County, New York. The cause? The defeat of “radical Jamaal Bowman.”

It’s not surprising that Republicans would oppose Bowman, a black democratic socialist. But these Republicans aren’t organizing behind a Republican general election candidate. They’re supporting Bowman’s Democratic opponent, George Latimer.

That means that Democrats in Westchester, including centrists who don’t always agree with Bowman’s progressive politics — which have included public funding for renewable energy and a cease-fire in Gaza — who vote for Latimer would be allying themselves with MAGA backers.

Latimer’s willingness to accept money from such actors reflects the grim reality that some in the centrist Democratic establishment would often rather ally with Trumpists than allow the Left to gain power. Local Democratic committees and even some unions have, in this spirit, endorsed Latimer. (That support has been far from uniform, however: national figures like House Democratic leaders Hakeem Jeffries, Pete Aguilar, and Kathleen Clarke came out strongly for Bowman last month.)

This election year, Bowman is one of the main targets of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), which essentially serves as an arm of the Israeli state and its far-right government. Latimer’s fundraising edge is huge, but according to recent internal polling, the race could be much closer than previously reported. Bowman could win.

Part of what’s animated both MAGA and AIPAC is Bowman’s call for a cease-fire in Gaza. However, his position is a popular one: a Working Families Party poll in the district last month found that 69 percent of Democratic voters in the district would be more likely to support a candidate backing a cease-fire.

Louro, an insurance mogul who has already given $5,000 to Latimer, is a top Donald Trump fundraiser. He hosted a $5,000-a-plate event for Trump in 2016. In the last election, he hosted a party for New York governor Kathy Hochul’s far-right opponent, Lee Zeldin. Donald Trump Jr. was a featured speaker. Louro, who lives on Long Island, has also served as regional finance chairman for New York state’s Republican Party. (As for Bercow, the host of the Latimer shindig, he’s been less partisan in the past, supporting both Democrats and Republicans as many rich people do. But his biggest cause has been genocide apologetics, giving thousands over the years to AIPAC and similar groups.)

Louro isn’t the only MAGA Republican backing Latimer. Alex Dubitsky, CEO of a “bespoke insurance” firm based in Connecticut, who gave $15,000 to Trump in 2020, held a brunch in January at his home in Larchmont, inviting his friends to pay up to $6,600 to meet and greet Latimer.

Over the last few years, as the New York Daily News reported, he’s given nearly $20,000 to the Republican National Committee, as well as supporting right wingers like Lindsey Graham, Elise Stefanik, Rob Astorino, and Zeldin. Hedge funder Daniel Loeb has also donated to Latimer. Loeb is a charter school zealot who has given $1.5 million to Mitch McConnell, $200,000 to a PAC supporting Dr Oz, along with millions to the Republican Party.

That’s not even counting the indirect far-right money: MAGA Republicans are also some of the biggest donors to AIPAC, which plans to spend millions on Latimer this cycle.

While Latimer’s support from AIPAC has been widely reported, and some local papers have uncovered the MAGA connections, the latter have been surprisingly downplayed in major media. Bowman supporters even point to a pattern of reporters deleting tweets that portray Latimer in a negative light.

Politico reporter David Freedlander took down a tweet about the Louro-organized fundraiser; he told Jacobin he did this because Bercow, the event’s host, said that he was getting violent threats. A News 12 reporter also took down a tweet in which Latimer unconvincingly answered accusations that, in taking money from MAGA Republicans, he is working with groups and people who have a history of targeting people of color. (That clip, which was reposted by Daniel Marans of the Huffington Post, is a familiar genre: a white person’s awkward testimony that, having grown up with black friends and neighbors, he could not possibly be implicated in anything racist.)

Perhaps it shouldn’t be so surprising that a Democrat willing to ally himself with AIPAC — whose mission is to enable an eliminationist policy against Palestinians — would be willing to accept money from domestic white supremacists and extremists. But for many liberal suburbanites, even those accustomed to tuning out Middle East politics, MAGA cash might be too egregious to stomach.

These unsavory bedfellows are helping to give the unremarkable Latimer — who was never gifted at fundraising before he was adopted as a pet cause by the far right — a big fundraising edge over Bowman. Bowman did a video on the matter: “This is what we’ve been telling y’all,” he says, with the Louro invitation appearing in the background, “Republicans are bankrolling my opponent.”

On Louro’s support for Trump and Zeldin, Bowman noted in the video that these are “two people who want to end Roe v. Wade and have said it out loud, two people who are racist MAGA Republicans who supported the insurrection and the attack on the US Capitol.”

There are clearly some voters in Bowman’s district who don’t like him – hardcore Israel apologists who don’t like his support for Palestinian lives, and some rich people who don’t like social democracy and high taxes. But it seems unlikely that most residents of Westchester and the Bronx want to tolerate racist, anti-choice MAGA influence in their district.