Latimer likely to fit in fast among House Democrats

It’s not common to see a primary challenger get a warm welcome on Capitol Hill after ousting an incumbent. But that’s exactly what Westchester County Executive George Latimer is likely to experience with most of the House Democratic caucus next year.

Various House Democrats from different factions of the caucus predicted on Wednesday that Latimer, who has deep relationships within the party after his years in state and local government, could fit right in after toppling Rep. Jamaal Bowman (D-N.Y.). It helps that Bowman had rubbed some Democratic colleagues the wrong way lately with off-color commentary and antics like triggering a fire alarm last year.

“I think George will be a great member,” said Rep. Grace Meng (D-N.Y.), who was neutral in the primary and served with Latimer in the state Assembly. “Obviously, we have to get through the general. … I’m also thankful to have been able to serve with Jamaal Bowman. He is our colleague, and his voice had a role in our caucus as well.”

Latimer trounced Bowman, a member of the progressive Squad, in Tuesday’s primary after a deluge of outside money and Bowman’s personal controversies narrowed his path to victory. Bowman’s seat was one of the top targets this year for the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, whose outside spending in the race through its super PAC made it the most expensive primary in congressional history.

“Look, when any person wins — and there’s been various members that have been challenged previously, and new members have won — they come in and they become part of this team,” said Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-N.Y.), who chairs the Congressional Black Caucus PAC, which endorsed Bowman in his primary. Democrats’ primary goal, Meeks added, remains “winning the majority back so Hakeem Jeffries is the speaker.”

Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.) predicted only “maybe a couple of people” would have hard feelings toward Latimer: “People come here after winning primary fights all the time, and he’ll be judged for who he is when people meet him.”

Although it’s unclear exactly which ideological lane Latimer might occupy in the House Democratic caucus, one top liberal didn’t rule out letting him into their bloc should he seek admission to the Congressional Progressive Caucus.

“We have a criteria, and if he meets the criteria, I don’t see why not,” said Rep. Mark Pocan (D-Wis.). “Obviously, anyone who wants to be a progressive in Congress is welcome in the caucus.”

Even so, some House Democrats have speculated Latimer would likely become a more moderate member after he got endorsed by Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D-N.J.), the co-chair of the bipartisan and centrist Problem Solvers Caucus.