Negro Swamp: Congressional Black Caucus Defends Backing Centrist White Man Over Progressive Black Man

Isheka N. Harrison
Written by Isheka N. Harrison
Congressional Black Caucus
The Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) is being criticized for backing a white incumbent over his Black challenger in a New York congressional race. In the priginal photos: House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Eliot Engel, D-N.Y., talks to reporters as before he meets with fellow House Democrats at the Capitol in Washington, Tuesday, Dec. 17, 2019. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite) Jamaal Bowman during his campaign launch at the Bronx on June 18, 2019. Photo: Corey Torpie Photography/Courtesy of Jamaal Bowman For Congress

The Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) is being criticized for backing a white incumbent over his Black challenger in a New York congressional race.

Sixteen-term incumbent Eliot Engel is being opposed by native Bronx educator Jamaal Bowman in the race to represent New York’s 16th Congressional District; and the CBC is backing Engel, reported the New York Times (NYT).

The founding principal of Cornerstone Academy for Social Action, Bowman is running on a progressive platform that includes Medicare for All and the Green New Deal.

Bowman has the support of many grassroots groups across the nation, including Working Families Party, Democracy For America (DFA), Justice Democrats, etc. The CBC’s backing of Engel has caused Bowman’s supporters to accuse the organization of being more concerned about “incumbency than increasing racial representation,” NYT said.

The CBC has defended its decision, however. Gregory Meeks is the CBC’s political chair and Engel’s congressional colleague.

“Our criteria, when it comes to incumbents — it comes down to what they’ve done while they’re in Washington. How have they voted on issues that are important to the Congressional Black Caucus? What’s their relationship with African-Americans in their district,” Meeks told NYT.

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He added that Engel’s record has shown him to be an ally who votes in favor of issues that benefit Black Americans. When asked if there was anything a Black challenger could do to earn the CBC’s support, Meeks said it’s about a candidate’s record and the relationships they have with the Black community.

“We believe in trying to make sure that people of color have the best representation possible,” Meeks said.

An October 2019 poll showed residents hadn’t decided who they would cast their ballots for, but Bowman keeps picking up endorsements ahead of the June 23 primary – sans the CBC’s.

In a statement, Bowman called the CBC’s choice to back Engel “disappointing.” He has challenged Engel to a debate.

“Many voters I speak to say that they haven’t seen their representative in action or working to help people in the district,” Bowman wrote in a letter. “Constituents don’t know where to turn for resources or even basic necessities like food. Many feel the response from our party has been lackluster and hasn’t met the scale of what’s needed.”

Engel said he’s doing his best to serve his constituents.

“I am working every waking hour of every day to bring as much relief to New York as we possibly can,” Engel said, referring to his work to bring funding in response to the pandemic. “I’m working with my colleagues in the delegation, with our allies in Albany — including the governor — and with the House leadership.”