30-Year Democratic Congressman Gets Progressive Challenger Backed by Justice Democrats


Justice Democrats is backing a progressive political rookie who launched his campaign to unseat a 30-year Democratic New York congressman this week.

Democratic New York Rep. Eliot Engel, 72, has multiple challengers including Jamaal Bowman, a 43-year-old public middle school founder and principal, reported Huff Post on Tuesday. Justice Democrats, the group that propelled Ocasio-Cortez to victory in 2018, recruited Bowman.

Bowman’s announcement comes less than a week after Justice Democrats’ first candidate of the 2020 cycle, Jessica Cisneros, announced she is challenging Democratic Texas Rep. Henry Cuellar from the left. But Engel is much closer to the progressive mold than Cuellar. In fact, Engel is a cosponsor of Medicare-for-all and spoke out against the Iraq War in 2007, though he did vote for it in 2002.

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The congressman, who is Jewish, also criticized Democratic Minnesota Rep. Ilhan Omar after she slammed “the political influence in this country that says it is okay to push for allegiance to a foreign country,” referring to Israel, in March. However, Engel did not support removing Omar from the House Foreign Affairs Committee, which he chairs.

Bowman speaks out against Engel’s record in his launch video posted Monday. He also addressed his background as the child of a single mother who grew up in public housing in the Bronx.

Do you think Jamaal Bowman will unseat Eliot Engel?

“It’s time to build a new America ― a new America that taps into its unlimited potential, a new America that leverages the brilliance of children and people from diverse backgrounds,” Bowman said in the video according to Huff Post. “That’s the America I want to be a part of, the America I want for my children and grandchildren.”

Bowman already has some name recognition in his district after he spoke out against state standardized tests in 2016, despite his school’s stellar test score improvement record, Huff Post reported. He is the principal of the Cornerstone Academy for Social Action.

Progressives are already getting fired up about Bowman. “An education warrior, looks promising!” failed New York gubernatorial candidate Cynthia Nixon wrote on Twitter Tuesday.

“I’m supporting Jamaal Bowman for Congress in New York’s 16th Congressional District. He’s a lifelong educator and school principal in the Bronx. His experience, his values, and his policy ideas are what we need,” activist Shaun King wrote on Twitter on Tuesday.

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