The two candidates in the 1st Congressional District GOP primary have joined the chorus of critics calling out Democrat Rep. Jamaal Bowman (D-N.Y.) for setting off a fire alarm just ahead of a Congressional vote on a stopgap budget measure.
Republicans Hollie Noveletsky and Russell Prescott both issued statements Monday criticizing Bowman. The Capitol Police are investigating the incident. Meanwhile, Rep. Chris Pappas (D-N.H.) has pointedly declined to comment on Bowman’s actions or criticize a messaging memo urging House Democrats to smear his GOP critics as “Nazis.”
On Saturday, as the House prepared to vote on a plan to keep the federal government open, some progressives complained they didn’t have enough time to read the bill. Bowman set off the fire alarm in the Cannon House Office Building as the vote approached, forcing a floor-by-floor evacuation.
“On security video, a man was seen trying to exit the door in the Cannon Building and then pulling the fire alarm that prompted the evacuation,” according to a Capitol police report issued Monday. According to the report, officers “had previously placed signs with clear language that explained the door was secured and marked as an emergency exit only.”
Bowman insisted he pulled the fire alarm by mistake. “I am embarrassed to admit that I activated the fire alarm, mistakenly thinking it would open the door. I regret this and sincerely apologize for any confusion this caused,” he said.
Republicans rejected Bowman’s explanation as ludicrous, posting photos of the clearly marked fire alarm and signage around the door. And, some Republicans noted, Democrats have treated other attempts to disrupt Congress as serious matters.
“When we found that an individual elected to Congress would pull a fire alarm, that’s a new low,” said House Speaker Kevin McCarthy. “We watched how people have been treated if they have done something wrong in this Capitol. It will be interesting to see how he is treated on what he was trying to obstruct when it came to the American public.”
After a day of growing criticism, Bowman released a memo Monday afternoon to his fellow Democrats, including Reps. Annie Kuster and Chris Pappas, offering bullet points for them to use in his defense. Among them: “Republicans need to instead focus their energy on the Nazi members of their party before anything else.”
Attempting to label critics of his problematic behavior “Nazis” brought another swift backlash, and Bowman responded by blaming his staff and claiming he didn’t see the memo before it went out.
Asked about Bowman’s behavior and whether he believed the Democrat’s dubious story, Pappas declined to answer. Asked about the memo he received from Bowman or his thoughts on being asked to call people “Nazis,” Pappas was also unwilling to speak publicly.
Republicans quickly called him out.
“If an everyday American did what Rep. Bowman did, they would be being held to a much different standard than the congressman has been,” said Prescott. “That’s what Granite Staters are sick and tired of — one set of rules for the elite in Washington, while another for the rest of America. He should be held fully accountable for his actions.”
Prescott is a Kington business owner and former state senator who ran unsuccessfully for the 1st Congressional District nomination in 2022. He was the first Republican to jump into the 2024 race.
On Monday, Novel Iron Works CEO Hollie Noveletsky entered the 1st Congressional District primary, and she had a simple take on Bowman’s behavior. “If someone in my business falsely pulled a fire alarm, I would fire them.”
“Chris Pappas’s refusal to condemn his own colleague who pulled a fire alarm in an attempt to shut down the government is inexcusable,” said NRCC spokeswoman Savannah Viar. “Then again, so is just about everything Pappas does as Congressman, it’s time to send both disappointments packing.”
Kuster also declined to criticize Bowman’s behavior or answer questions about the memo she received from his office.