By Stephanie Kelly

NEW YORK (Reuters) – The Democratic primary race for a U.S. House of Representatives seat in New York state has become a new battleground for a powerful pro-Israel fundraising group, which spent nearly $2 million on ads this week against incumbent Jamaal Bowman.

Bowman is battling George Latimer, the county executive for wealthy Westchester County, in the June 25 primary for the 16th Congressional district that includes the northern Bronx and parts of Westchester County.

In a recent debate, both said they supported a two-state solution to the Israel-Palestinian conflict, though Bowman also called for a change in Israeli leadership. He has also called for a permanent ceasefire in Gaza, which has been under Israeli bombardment for seven months, saying he is against “genocide” and “ethnic cleansing.”

But a new ad released this week by the United Democracy Project (UDP) – super PAC for the American Israel Public Affairs Committee – accuses Bowman of having “his own agenda” and says he “refuses to compromise, even with President (Joe) Biden.”

Super PACs like the UDP can receive donations of unlimited size but cannot coordinate with campaigns directly.

Asked for more details, UDP spokesman Patrick Dorton accused Bowman of having a “radical anti-Israel view that is far different than President Biden’s.”

Bowman has hit back at that claim by telling CNN that he supported Biden’s decision earlier this month to not send additional weapons to Israel and that the UDP was attacking him “simply because we called for a permanent ceasefire and simply because we’re calling for peace in Gaza.”

He has previously attacked the UDP’s campaign on social media platform X, saying: “They think they can buy our democracy. We’re going to prove them wrong.”

Jews for Jamaal, which says it is a coalition of New York City and Westchester Jews, has also defended Bowman, saying he has worked with Biden to bring in over $1 billion in funding for the district.


Biden, a Democrat running for re-election this year, has faced heavy criticism from a slice of his party for his support of Israel. With Democratic voters and lawmakers divided over the conflict in Gaza, UDP’s spending has drawn scrutiny.

The super PAC has so far raised nearly $50 million this election cycle and spent over $18 million to boost candidates that support a strong U.S.-Israel relationship, according to Federal Election Commission records.

It spent about $4.2 million this election cycle to boost Sarah Elfreth, a Democrat in Maryland’s 3rd congressional district in this week’s Democratic primary, according to OpenSecrets, an organization that tracks political contributions. She beat former Capitol Police officer Harry Dunn, who defended lawmakers in the Jan.6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol.

UDP has reserved $1.9 million on ads for the New York race through May 20, according to AdImpact, which tracks political ads.

Jews for Jamaal argues that UDP’s leading donors are mega-donors for Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump who oppose Bowman and Biden’s progressive positions on issues including gun violence and investments in housing. AIPAC responds that it is “the top fundraiser for Democratic candidates, Congressional Black Caucus members, Hispanic caucus members and Progressive Caucus members.”

“It is entirely consistent with progressive values to stand with Israel as it battles Iran and its terrorist proxies,” said AIPAC spokesperson Marshall Wittmann.

Top donors for UDP include donors from the Marcus Foundation, a philanthropic organization established by the co-founder of the Home Depot, and investment firm Elliott Management, who have given toward Republican causes, as well as donors from hedge fund Highfields Capital Management and lending platform GreenSky, who have given toward Democratic causes, according to data from OpenSecrets.

When asked in a debate this week about AIPAC’s support and their links to Republican donors, Latimer said, “My actions prove who I am.” His office did not respond to a Reuters request for comment for this article.

Bowman’s office also did not respond to requests for comment for this article.

Israel is retaliating against Hamas over an Oct. 7 attack in which Israel says militants killed about 1,200 people and took more than 250 people hostage. Gaza health authorities say Israel has killed more than 35,000 people in Gaza since then.

(Reporting by Stephanie Kelly; Editing by Heather Timmons and Deepa Babington)

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