A triple threat: Three candidates challenge Bowman in Wakefield, Westchester Congressional primary – Bronx Times (2022)

Over the past two decennial redistricting cycles, New York’s 16th Congressional District has adopted more Westchester constituents while shedding Bronx communities, most recently losing Riverdale, Woodlawn, Eastchester and Co-op City.

The district, which now only includes the Bronx’s Wakefield and a slew of municipalities in Westchester, invites a host of Democraticchallengers looking to unseat Progressive incumbent U.S. Rep. Jamaal Bowman in the second set of summer primaries on Aug. 23.

Vedat Gashi and Catherine Parker, both Westchester County legislators, and Mark Jaffe, CEO of the Greater New York Chamber of Commerce, have thrown their hats into a crowded primary field as Democrats try to hold their 10-seat advantage in the U.S. House of Representatives this November.

All four candidates, including Bowman, a Yonkers native, live in Westchester.

Bowman, 46, who unseated 16-term incumbent Eliot Engel as a middle school principal and political newcomer in 2020, told the Bronx Times he hopes Democrats maintain control of the House and Senate following the 2022 midterms in order to pass women’s reproductive rights, criminal justice reform and voting rights legislation without roadblocks.

Map credit: newyork.redistrictingandyou.org

As for why each candidate thinks they’re best for the seat, Catherine Parker, of Rye, emphasized that she is in her 15th year representing constituents in the district. She has the most legislative experience in the race, spending the last nine years on the Westchester County Board of Legislators, including a term as majority leader, following six years on the Rye City Council. Parker, 56, pitched herself as someone who gets involved with the granular day-to-day aspects of the district – which she said she hasn’t seen from Bowman.

“I think we need somebody who is really going to be committed to really the service part of the job and not look at it from the standpoint of just being on a soapbox for national issues,” she told the Bronx Times.

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Parker, whose father and grandparents are from the Bronx, planned to run in the Democratic primary in 2020 in the more northern District 17 to replace the retiring longtime U.S. Rep. Nita Lowey but the county lawmaker dropped her campaign, telling The Journal News that she didn’t feel comfortable asking people for money during the pandemic and had to focus on her job as a local representative. The seat was filled by U.S. Rep. Mondaire Jones, which state Sen. Alessandra Biaggi is now seeking out.

Bowman’s other challenger from the Westchester Board of Legislators, Gashi,44, pointed to his work drafting laws in Kosovo when he was fresh out of law school as it was working to gain its independence – the very place he fled from with his parents at the age of four, landing him in the Bronx and PS86 in Kingsbridge Heights. He now lives in Yorktown, which, although the town was part of an iteration of District 16 earlier this year, it now falls in District 17.

He told the Bronx Times he wants to help other people achieve the American Dream like he did as a formerly undocumented immigrant who found a path to citizenship.

While Gashi began his work as a Westchester lawmaker in January 2020, he ran for higher office in 2018, losing to Assemblymember Kevin Byrne, a Republican, in the general election.

Jaffe, who lives in Harrison but has done work in the Bronx through the chamber of commerce, frames his lack of experience as an elected official as a point of pride, claiming he isn’t beholden to any political machine. Jaffe, who said his grandfather immigrated from Kiev to the Bronx, points to his experience advocating for local businesses and networking as a benefit for working across the aisle.

But Jaffe, 65, has unsuccessfully sought public office six times, from a local town board seat in 2009 to the state Senate in 2017. He told the Bronx Times that he’s learned lessons and made friends along the way and claims he is the right candidate for this moment as a “common sense” Democrat.

A divisive issue amongst Progressive and moderate Democrats in the most recent political cycle has been the topic of police accountability and police budgeting.

All three of Bowman’s challengers bashed the “defund the police” slogan, a phrase that Bowman shied away from in recent months.

But Bowman said he doesn’t want conversations around policing to be centered on defunding or not, but rather call attention to divested funding into public health determinants of crime – such as poverty, lack of resources and education attainment – rather than sky-high police budgets.

“What we know for a fact is New York City has one of the largest police forces in the world and is funded at higher rates than some militaries around the world, but we still continue to see a rise in crimes and gun violence,” said Bowman. “Why is that? It’s because we need to invest in a more public health approach.”

Gashi also talked about health, but through police funding. He said police departments need to be funded in order to implement equitable and efficient public safety policies, pointing to behavioral health professionals that partner with police in Westchester.

“I don’t think the best way to get at it is to create an adversarial situation between the people that are tasked with providing public safety and the rest of the community,” Gashi said. “I think we should be able to find a way to collaborate and move forward.”

Jaffe’s idea for addressing issues with policing is to propose a federal program that would weed out “bad apples” in police departments and “build back the respect” for officers across five years. His approach would be to grant $100,000 bounties to officers who report their misbehaving peers, guaranteeing 24-7 protection for the whistleblower along with speedy adjudication, punishment and dismissal if the “bad cop” is found guilty.

Parker said that while police need resources, they can be utilized better, like with implicit bias training. Citing efforts to ban gun shows from the Westchester County Center and a local resolution in support of statewide Red Flag gun laws, she said she will fight for “sensible gun legislation” while also being able to discuss itwith Republicans.

“I think this is where it’s important to be a pragmatic Democrat and not somebody who is positioning themselves so far left of the party as to make themselves irrelevant to the larger conversation,” she said, alsocriticizing Bowman for voting according to the priorities of “The Squad” rather than district residents.

A triple threat: Three candidates challenge Bowman in Wakefield, Westchester Congressional primary – Bronx Times (1)

Bowman is no stranger to defending his progressive policies – or Progressive pals such as Bronx pol and fellow squad member U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez – from attacks that he says often skew racially.

While Progressives’ calls for bolder climate change action, criminal justice reform and cancellation of student debt have often been criticized by moderate Democrats and Republicans as radical, Bowman says they are more in line with what the majority of American people want, citing a disconnect between critics and voters.

“So they try to weaponize these terms against me or against my colleagues,” he said. “It shows that there’s a disconnect between some who are running for office and the realities on the ground in our communities.”

Gashi said the environmental crisis cannot be ignored and is tied to economic development,pointing to Westchester County’s conversion of its fleet to electric. Meanwhile, Jaffe used the topic to criticize environmentalists.

Acknowledging that a “green movement” is needed, Jaffe said there needs to be more wind and solar power before cutting off the fossil fuel industry, which he said presents an opportunity to invest, regulate and tax.

“Some of these younger people are idealistic – some of my friends, you know, they use stronger words – I like to use idealistic,” the chamber president said. “But they’re not pragmatic.”

Jaffe pointed to Bowman’s vote against President Joe Biden’s $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill in November, which served as a lightning rod of criticism for the incumbent. Bowman’s reasoning was that he could not vote yes for the bill when he learned it would not be passed in concert with the Build Back Better bill, which stalled after West Virginia Sen. Joe Machin, a moderate Democrat, rejected climate and tax provisions within the bill’s framework.

Infrastructure, and in particular, solutions to protect the 16th Congressional District and its inhabitants from the effects of climate change, figure to be a key issue in this primary.

Parker, whose Westchester legislative district is within the boundaries of the new CD16, pointed to community work she did in response to massive flooding in Mamaroneck following August 2021’s Hurricane Ida and claimed Bowman and his staff didn’t show the same level of interest.

The county lawmaker wrote a letter to Bowman’s office on March 3, months before Ida hit, asking the congressmember to advocate for the funding necessary for a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers flood mitigation project in Mamaroneck, which has been devastated by flooding issues dating back to the 1950s. But she claims she didn’t receive a response and said Bowman “could have been the hero” for that section of the district.

The incumbent, however, said that he made visits to flood-hit areas like Yonkers, Rye and Mamaroneck and championed an $88 million investment for the army corp’s flood mitigation work in January of this year. His office denied receiving the county lawmaker’s letter.

While Mamaroneck Mayor Tom Murphy is supporting Parker in the race, he emphasized that his endorsement had nothing to do with Ida, saying he appreciates congressmember’s advocacy for the community.

According to Federal Election Commission data reported up to June 30, Bowman and Gashi have raised the most money. Bowman reported $1.37 million and Gashi, who launched his campaign in early February, reported $807,923, both mostly consisting of contributions.

Parker’s campaign, which kicked off in late May, reported $297,811 under its belt, but just $158,559 were contributions. Jaffe, who joined the race in June, reported $100,000, which he loaned to the campaign himself, according to the filings.

Members of Congress are elected to two-year terms and make $174,000 yearly.

Reach Aliya Schneider ataschneider@schnepsmedia.com or (718) 260-4597.Reach Robbie Sequeira atrsequeira@schnepsmedia.comor (718) 260-4599.

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FAQs

Where does Jamaal Bowman represent? ›

Jamaal Anthony Bowman (born April 1, 1976) is an American politician and educator serving as the U.S. representative for New York's 16th congressional district since 2021.

What congressional district does Jamaal Bowman represent? ›

Who represents Rye NY in Congress? ›

New York's 16th congressional district is a congressional district for the United States House of Representatives represented by Jamaal Bowman. The 16th district includes the northern Bronx and the southern half of Westchester County, including the suburban cities of Mount Vernon, Yonkers, New Rochelle, and Rye.

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D. Congressman Jamaal Bowman, Ed. D., represents New York's 16th District, which includes the Northern Bronx and parts of Westchester County, including Yonkers, New Rochelle, and Mount Vernon.

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I am honored to serve the residents of New York's 15th Congressional District located in the Bronx, the essential borough. New York's 15th District is home to nearly 740,000 residents who come from all over the world.

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New York's 17th Congressional District lies in the Lower Hudson Valley of New York State and includes all of Rockland County and parts of central and northern Westchester County.

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Distribution100% urban 0% rural
Population (2019)739,390
Median household income$31,061
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Distribution98.40% urban 1.60% rural
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The Office of The Bronx Borough President | Vanessa L. Gibson. Slider with alias none not found.

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: a boatman, oarsman, or paddler stationed in the front of a boat.

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Cori Anika Bush (born July 21, 1976) is an American politician, registered nurse, pastor, and Black Lives Matter activist serving as the U.S. representative for Missouri's 1st congressional district.

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I am honored to serve the residents of New York's 15th Congressional District located in the Bronx, the essential borough. New York's 15th District is home to nearly 740,000 residents who come from all over the world.

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