Jamaal Bowman Lost. Is Cori Bush Next?

Photo-Illustration: Intelligencer; Photos: Getty

On Tuesday, Representative Jamaal Bowman became the first member of the Squad — the group of like-minded progressive House members — to lose a congressional election. The former middle-school principal was ousted by Democratic challenger Westchester County executive George Latimer, who won by a double-digit margin in the most expensive House primary ever.

Bowman’s troubles can’t be attributed to one thing. His pro-Palestinian stance and tough criticism of Israel sparked the recruitment of Latimer, a veteran pol, and outside spending flooded the race, including more than $14 million from the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) alone. In redistricting, Bowman lost the majority-Black community Wakefield and had the Co-Op City housing development returned to his district while the Westchester County portions of the district were largely untouched.

And Bowman didn’t make life easy for himself in Congress: There was the protest vote against President Joe Biden’s signature infrastructure bill and the time he pulled the fire alarm in a Capitol office building during key budget negotiations, resulting in his censure.

Bowman’s fate has prompted speculation about whether his progressive colleagues are at risk of losing their seats too, especially those who share his views on the crisis in Gaza. Tuesday’s results probably pose the most concern to Representative Cori Bush of Missouri. Bush is set to face Wesley Bell, the current prosecuting attorney for St. Louis County, in her August 6 primary. Though he is a Democrat, HuffPost reported that Bell previously worked as the campaign manager for Mark Byrne, the Republican challenger to Congressman William Lacy Clay Jr., who held that seat for two decades until losing his primary to Bush.

A Mellman Group poll first reported by Politico shows an essentially tied race with Bell leading Bush with 43 percent versus her 42 percent, well within the margin of error. It was conducted for Democratic Majority for Israel, whose PAC has endorsed Bell. AIPAC has also been spending in the race, with the Intercept reporting that its United Democracy Project PAC has dropped $2 million in the primary so far.

Like Bowman, Bush is contending with a potential scandal of her own: The Department of Justice is investigating Bush over her use of campaign funds for security services. In 2023, Bush married Cortney Merritts, a former security guard for her campaign, and later retained him as part of her security team. Bush, who has been outspoken about the many racist and violent threats she’s received since taking office, strongly denied using any federal money for her personal security and said she will cooperate with the inquiry.

Many of Bowman’s fellow Squad members will likely emerge from this election season unscathed. Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez defeated her primary opponent, investment banker Marty Dolan, in decisive fashion, taking home 82.1 percent of the vote as of Wednesday morning. She’s due to face Tina Forte, the Republican candidate she defeated soundly in 2022, in the fall. Massachusetts representative Ayanna Pressley hasn’t faced a sizable challenger since she took office. Though Michigan representative Rashida Tlaib has weathered plenty of national backlash for her pro-Palestinian stances, she’s facing no Democratic competition, and her ultimate Republican challenger will likely struggle in her reliably blue district that includes Detroit and Dearborn.

The one other exception could be Representative Ilhan Omar of Minnesota. She is up against former Minneapolis City Councilmember Don Samuels, who previously ran against her in 2022, in the August 13 primary. The rematch could potentially be a tough one for Omar: She defeated Samuels by just two points that year.

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