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Dr. Miriam Levitt Flisser, a Westchester pediatrician, medical director in the Bronxville School District and former Scarsdale mayor, is vying to unseat Rep. Jamaal Bowman (D-Yonkers) in the upcoming race for New York’s 16th Congressional District, which includes all of southern Westchester, including White Plains, and a portion of the northern Bronx.
Having accepted the nomination from the Westchester Republican Committee, Levitt Flisser believes her deep roots in the district position her well to represent the constituents in Congress.
Born in Eastern Europe, Levitt Flisser immigrated with her parents to the United States, settling in the Bronx. After graduating from the Bronx High School of Science, Levitt Flisser attended New York University’s former University Heights campus and Albert Einstein College of Medicine. She completed her medical training at Montefiore Hospital, where she has served on the pediatric faculty.
“I have a great deal of experience in our district, and many of the projects I worked on are still helping the residents,” Levitt Flisser said, noting that she helped Bronxville schools remain open throughout the pandemic, developed a system of rain gardens that mitigate flooding of the Bronx River and volunteers with FEMA.
“I have one-on-one experience with families all the time, both at the school and in my practice in Bronxville,” she added. “That sets me up to be a very good representative for our constituents, and I think they deserve that.”
Bowman, who first ousted longtime Democrat Rep. Eliot Engel and then easily coasted to victory with 84 percent of the vote in the 2020 general election, believes that once an educator, always an educator.
“As (a) representative in Congress, I have spent my time not just teaching others what our district needs but learning from my constituents, listening to the district and growing as a leader,” Bowman said.
In his freshman term, Bowman said he’s brought hundreds of millions of dollars back to the district to invest directly in its towns and communities, including more than $5 million in community project funding and federal relief funds in the 2022 fiscal year.
Seeing the struggle parents and children have been facing throughout the pandemic, Bowman said he worked to ensure vaccination sites were open and accessible in the district. Additionally, Bowman brought resources into the district following the devastating effects of Hurricane Ida and passed legislation condemning white supremacy.
“In the face of countless challenges, we are showing up, putting in the work and fighting back,” Bowman added.
For Bowman, education, workforce development and public safety are some of the key issues today.
“Fixing our economy and public education system is how we reduce inflation, support working families, increase affordability and enhance public safety because the more opportunities we give folks, the less they need to resort to crime,” Bowman said.
“No child should have to worry about where they are going to sleep that night, if they will eat or if their parents will get the support they need to make their ends meet,” Bowman added. “I see my time in Congress as a way to make America live up to its promise and fulfill its ability to give everyone a chance to grow and thrive.”
For Levitt Flisser, the four main issues currently facing the district are the economy, crime, education and energy costs.
“We have an increase in crime in our county, and I think this is due to the failure to keep the border closed, defunding the police and not incarcerating criminals,” Levitt Flisser said.
Additionally, she would like to see school systems that are traditional, multicultural and accountable to parents, independent fuel production so the United States doesn’t have to depend on foreign oil, increased funds for police departments, better industries with good-paying jobs in the district and sensible uses of taxes.
If elected, Levitt Flisser would prioritize legislation focused on increasing public safety, including securing the border, setting up proper systems for handling criminals and earmarking more funds for local police departments.
“A secure border is a federal issue that can be immediately arranged,” Levitt Flisser said.
On the campaign trail, Levitt Flisser criticized Rep. Bowman’s “reckless spending” and decision to pull his support for the Israel Relations Normalization Act after a trip to Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories.
“Israel is a beacon, one of America’s greatest allies and provides stability in the Middle East for American interests,” Levitt Flisser said. “The Abraham Accords were a great step forward in Israel, and that was not supported by our representative.”
Bowman said that he supports freedom, security, prosperity and self-determination for both Israelis and Palestinians and a peaceful two-state solution.
“Israel has a right to exist, and Palestinians also deserve a state for themselves,” Bowman explained, noting that he believes the United States must exercise greater diplomacy toward the conflict.
“We have to make sure that all of our actions are in service of the ultimate goal of peace and security in the region. We can never lose sight of that goal,” Bowman added. “The truth is (Levitt Flisser) is grasping at straws.”
Bowman highlighted that at a time when families in the district are hurting and struggling to put food on the table, it is his job as an elected official to ease that pain and ensure Congress is tackling issues such as skyrocketing inflation, gas prices and food shortages.
“That’s why I proudly voted for the Inflation Reduction Act and why I also introduced a bill in the House that would fight greedy price gouging by corporations, which is a key cause of our current crisis,” Bowman said.
Levitt Flisser said she does not believe inflation can be stopped with massive government spending.
“Since February 2021, we’ve increased government spending by $9 trillion,” Levitt Flisser said. “We will not be able to improve unless we have control over that.”
Levitt Flisser said she has a different view of residents’ needs than Bowman and believes the district deserves a representative with common-sense centrist values.
“I don’t think we should become even more socialist and progressive,” Levitt Flisser said.
She said all the public service she does, including her current bid for Congress, is inspired by her gratitude for the United States, having immigrated to the country as a young girl.
“I’m a lifelong New Yorker who was raised in the Bronx. I want to see this country and New York succeed, and I will represent the people,” Levitt Flisser said.
Bowman said he knows what the district’s families need to thrive and has dedicated the last two years to make sure they have the resources to do just that.
“If re-elected, I will continue working for families and everyday people, not corporations,” Bowman said.
The district has not had a Republican representative elected to Congress since 1949.
Early voting takes place from Oct. 29 to Nov. 6, with the general election on Nov. 8.
This article is supported by the CUNY Center for Community Media’s 2022 NY State Elections Reporting Fellowship, of which author Bailey Hosfelt is a recipient.