Mar 28, 2024 - Politics & Policy

Squad primary challengers backed by Jewish Democrats group

Reps. Cori Bush, wearing a blue pant suit, blue, purple and white blouse and blue "St. Louis" face mask, sits on the Capitol steps with Rep. Jamaal Bowman, wearing a blue suit, light blue shirt, pale purple tie and white face mask.

Reps. Cori Bush and Jamaal Bowman. Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images.

The Jewish Democratic Council of America is backing two Democrats challenging members of the progressive Squad who have been outspoken critics of Israel.

Why it matters: It's the first time the group, closely aligned with the Democratic establishment, has endorsed against incumbent Democratic lawmakers.

Driving the news: Among the 20 candidates the JDCA announced endorsements for on Thursday were Wesley Bell and George Latimer, according to a press release shared with Axios.

  • Bell, a prosecutor in St. Louis County, is running against Rep. Cori Bush (D-Mo.) in Missouri's 1st district.
  • Latimer, the executive of Westchester County, is challenging Rep. Jamaal Bowman (D-N.Y.) in New York's 16th district – which includes many of the heavily Jewish communities in New York City's northern suburbs.
  • The other endorsees consist of Democratic candidates running for GOP-held House seats and current and former House Democrats running for Senate.

What they're saying: JDCA chief of staff Sam Crystal told Axios that Bell and Latimer were identified as "not only in line with JDCA but fighting for the issues ... that Jewish American voters are prioritizing."

  • Those issues include defending democracy, abortion rights and health care access, cracking down on gun violence and climate change, support for Israel and combating anti-Semitism, he said.
  • JDCA chair-elect Susie Stern, in a statement, said Latimer is a "longtime progressive leader" and "partner to Jewish New Yorkers" who "resolutely stands behind our community when challenging moments arise, including the current one."

Between the lines: Crystal stressed that the endorsements are "based on the candidates that we're endorsing," rather than the records of their opponents.

The other side: "Congresswoman Bush was elected to Congress to represent regular, everyday people and to speak out and fight back against injustice in all its many forms," a Bush campaign spokesperson told Axios.

  • "She is proud to have the support of courageous organizations like Jewish Voice for Peace Action, Progressive Jews of St. Louis, and the IfNotNow Movement, as well as many Muslim and Palestinian-led organizations[.]"
  • A Bowman spokesperson did not respond to a request for comment.

The backdrop: Bush and Bowman, like their fellow Squad members, have lambasted Israel's military operations in Gaza – but their respective legal issues have fueled particularly strong efforts to oust them.

Zoom out: JDCA, which uses direct voter contact and digital advertising to turn out voters, joins a well-funded pro-Israel operation trying to take out Squad members.

  • AIPAC and its super PAC, United Democracy Project, plan to spend upwards of $100 million targeting Squad members and other lawmakers the group has identified as anti-Israel.
  • A consortium of progressive groups has formed a "Reject AIPAC" coalition to counter the pro-Israel group.
  • In addition to Bush and Bowman, Reps. Summer Lee (D-Pa.) and Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) face credible – though less serious – primary threats.
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