Bronx Principal To Challenge Eliot Engel, Powerful House Democrat, From The Left

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Written by Ann Brown
Jamaal Bowman

Rep. Eliot Engel, 72, a 16-term Democrat representing New York’s 16th Congressional District, leads the House Foreign Affairs Committee and has long been one of Israel’s biggest supporters. 

Engel was first elected to Congress in 1989. Now his long tenure is being threatened by a Progressive middle school principal who plans to run against the long-term Bronx Democrat.

Jamaal Bowman wants to unseat the 30-year veteran in the 2020 election and he has the backing of Justice Democrats, the left-wing group that pushed for the election of NYC’s Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. She represents a neighboring district in the Bronx and Queens.

Bowman,who is African American, is the founder and principal of a Bronx public middle school — Cornerstone Academy for Social Action (CASA).

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In his announcement video, Bowman goes in on Engel’s past votes for the 1994 crime bill, deregulating Wall Street, the Iraq War, and then-President George W. Bush’s controversial education law. He also questions Engel’s record on the No Child Left Behind Act. The two-minute spot features Engel speaking in support of the Iraq War and the crime bill, The Huffington Post reported.

As far as his own plans, Bowman promises to push for “Medicare for All,” tuition-free public college, a Green New Deal, criminal justice reform, and the devolution of public school control to local communities.

“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. “That’s the America I want to be a part of, the America I want for my children and grandchildren.”

Bowman won’t be Engel’s only challenger. Special education teacher and progressive Andom Ghebreghiorgis is also in the running.

“We should … not be funding settlements, and our president should not be getting settlements named after him,” Ghebreghiorgis said during an interview with Mondo Weiss, a progressive website devoted to informing readers about developments related to Israel, Palestine and U.S. foreign policy.

As chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee and a member of the influential Energy and Commerce Committee, Engel is one of the most powerful members of Congress, HuffPo reported. “And his committee’s work investigating, among other things, President Donald Trump’s relationship to Russian President Vladimir Putin could provide him with potent fodder on the primary campaign trail.”

Yet some of Engel’s stances have been called into question by other Democrats.

“Engel, who is Jewish, has been one of the more vocal critics of Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), an outspoken advocate for Palestinian rights who sits on the Foreign Affairs Committee. He demanded an apology from Omar for allegedly invoking a ‘vile anti-Semitic slur’ in comments she made in March about U.S. policy toward Israel. (Engel nonetheless did not acquiesce to Republican demands that Omar be stripped of her committee post),” HuffPo reported.

Engel also supported Trump’s May 2018 decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and move the U.S. embassy there from Tel Aviv.

Bowman has also made some waves. He is against state standardized tests, which he once called “modern-day slavery.” His school uses a holistic approach to education with a thriving arts program and a curriculum that celebrates Black history all year long.

Some say Engel will be hard to beat. “Engel easily defeated three Democrats in the 2018 primary with nearly 74 percent of the votes before winning unopposed by the Republican Party,” the Daily Voice reported.