The progressive wing of New York’s Democratic Party may have killed its second giant in as many congressional election cycles, if initial results of Tuesday’s primary hold up.
House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Eliot Engel, a pro-Israel lawmaker who battled last year with Democratic Rep. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota after she made comments seen by many as anti-Semitic, was trailing a former middle school principal who had the backing of Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, a fellow member with Omar in the coterie of House progressives calling themselves “the squad.”
Ocasio-Cortez made political history in the Empire State in 2018 when she defeated longtime Democratic Rep. Joe Crowley, who at the time was the fourth-ranked Democrat in the House.
This year, she supported former middle school principal Jamaal Bowman’s primary challenge against Engel, a 16-term incumbent, in New York’s 16th Congressional District.
As of Wednesday morning, Bowman, 44, had garnered 60.8 percent of the vote compared to 34.4 percent for Engel, with 698 of 732 election districts reporting results, according to the New York State Board of Elections website.
“Eliot Engel used to say he was a thorn in the side of Donald Trump,” Bowman said Tuesday night, according to Reuters. “But you know what Donald Trump is more afraid of than anything else? A black man with power. That is what Donald Trump is afraid of.”
Bowman said his apparent victory was part of the wider war against the current system.
“So tonight as we celebrate, we don’t just celebrate me as an individual, we celebrate this movement, a movement designed to push back against a system that’s literally killing us. It’s killing black and brown bodies disproportionately, but it’s killing all of us,” he said, according to The Hill.
“The results show that this district is demanding change. This is what this district has been waiting for, this is what this country has been waiting for, and we are all here now together. So I am excited, I am happy, I am fired up,” Bowman added.
“I cannot wait to get to Congress and cause problems for the people in there who have been maintaining a status quo that is literally killing our children,” he said.
The full extent of Bowman’s lead is uncertain because absentee ballots were requested in record numbers this year due to the current health crisis.
Under New York state law, absentee ballots can arrive up to a week after the primary, which means it will be July before final primary election results are tallied.
Engel’s district includes parts of Westchester County, as well as a portion of the Bronx in New York City.
If Jamaal Bowman defeats Eliot Engel, it will be a shattering loss for the Democratic Party establishment. They threw everything at him:
– $5 million in dark money smear ads
– Endorsements from Hillary Clinton, Andrew Cuomo and Chuck Schumer
And he still won. pic.twitter.com/yB2jzlV9z5
— Democratic Revolution 2020 (@maxberger) June 24, 2020
What is happening tonight with Jamaal Bowman is an earthquake. pic.twitter.com/ogiuUfYpaD
— Zephyr Teachout (@ZephyrTeachout) June 24, 2020
“Poverty is by political design, and it’s rooted in a system that has been fractured, and corrupt, and rotten from it’s from core from the inception of America.” @JamaalBowman #NY16 pic.twitter.com/cxWCPVTptu
— People for Bernie (@People4Bernie) June 24, 2020
Ocasio-Cortez had 69.6 percent of the vote as of Wednesday morning, according to the Board of Elections website, while Caruso-Cabrera was at 18.7 percent.
“If successful, Jamaal will be the first candidate elected to Congress from this latest movement uprising for racial justice,” said Waleed Shahid, communications director for the Justice Democrats.
“He’s assembling the ‘Obama’ coalition in the 2008 primary of people of color, young people, and older white liberals but grounded in a deeply progressive ideology,” he said.
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