Jamaal Bowman is a middle school principal who decided to take on the New York political Democratic establishment. He is running against 16-term Rep. Eliot Engel in the 16th Congressional District in the June 23 primary.
It is a majority-minority district that includes portions of the diverse, working-class Bronx and mostly white, wealthy areas of Westchester, as well as suburban areas like Mount Vernon, Yonkers and New Rochelle, NBC News reported.
Bowman’s progressive agenda is going up against the Congressional Black Caucus, The American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) and even the DNC.
Here are 12 things to know about the 44-year-old Democrat candidate.
Part of Bowman’s agenda includes a promise of “massive economic investment” across the district, but particularly in areas where poverty is concentrated. Bowman wants a federal jobs guarantee, up to 70,000 new affordable homes in the district, federal aid to upgrade existing public housing and boost public school budgets and universal health care through Medicare for All, NBC News reported.
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Sen. Bernie Sanders called Bowman “someone we can trust to be a powerful advocate for a progressive agenda in Congress,” The Washington Post reported.
“Jamaal understands that low-income families are locked out of opportunity and a decent life due to a system that is rigged to benefit the wealthy,” Sanders said in a statement. “In Congress, he will lead the fight for investing in our public schools, ending mass incarceration, and addressing the housing crisis.”
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has endorsed Bowman, the progressive challenger running against Engel, her House Democratic colleague and fellow Bronxite, Business Insider reported. Engel, a 30-year incumbent and chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, was raised in the Bronx.
“This moment requires renewed and revitalized leadership across the country AND at the ballot box,” the congresswoman wrote in a series of tweets. “Jamaal has dedicated the last decade of his life serving his community as a school principal and community servant.”
“He is exactly the kind of person we need in Congress fighting for big, structural change. Whether it’s fighting for high-quality public schools, affordable housing, or rooting out systemic racism, Jamaal Bowman will be a champion for working people in Washington,” Elizabeth Warren said in an endorsement statement obtained by CNN.
“Sen. Warren knows it’s not enough to keep electing Democrats that will only nibble around the edges, and it’s why I am running to make big, structural change in New York’s 16th District,” Bowman said in the release.
Bowman was born and raised in New York City, growing up in public housing and in rent-controlled apartments, according to his website. He now lives in Yonkers with his wife and three kids, and he works as the founding principal of one of the best public middle schools in the city.
In 2009, Bowman started Cornerstone Academy for Social Action (CASA) in the Bronx. CASA is considered an innovative public school with a focus on “student voice, holistic education, cultural awareness, and love,” according to his website.
For the past 20 years, Bowman worked in the New York public school system. He taught elementary and high school in the Bronx and worked as a high-school dean.
“A lot of people don’t see how success in school is connected to health care, how it’s connected to housing, even how it’s connected to overall public health,” he told New York Magazine. “Children don’t struggle in school by accident.”
According to Bowman’s agenda, college would be free and student loan debt would be canceled. “This plan would cut the racial wealth gap for young Black Americans by more than 50 percent: from 12 to 1 to 5 to 1. We must make historic investments in HBCUs,” he wrote on his website.
Bowman says he wants to impose a 2-percent wealth tax on Americans with a net worth of more than $50 million. This “would tackle skyrocketing inequality, help pay for universal child care, canceling student debt, and providing universal public college and trade school,” he wrote on his website.
Listen to GHOGH with Jamarlin Martin | Episode 72: Jamarlin Martin Part 2. J. Edgar Hoover, the first director of the FBI, may not be around but his energy is present in new Black politics.FBI agents and informants were used to weaken Marcus Garvey, the Nation of Islam and the Black Panthers — in many cases for money and career advancement. How could this energy metastasize into the “New Blacks” politics in 2020? Jamarlin goes solo to discuss who is doing the trading and what is being traded to weaken the aggregate Black political position.
Similar to the thinking of renowned economist Darrick Hamilton, Bowman believes baby bonds will help close the wealth gap. “The median white family today holds nearly 10 times the wealth of the median Black family. If we provided all newborns a savings account with $1,000 and added up to $2,000 per year until the child turned 18, we would move tremendously in addressing inequality and the racial wealth gap in this country,” Bowman wrote on his website.
Unlike his competitor, Engel, Bowman has not taken a pro-Israel stance. This troubles many in the AIPAC.
While some of Bowman’s “policy positions may seem in line with Jewish values, the positions on Israel he has shared publicly are troubling,” Jewish Telegraphic Agency reported.
In an interview with Jacobin magazine Bowman said “we should seriously consider placing conditions on the billions of dollars of military aid our government provides [Israel] in order to make sure that the rights and dignity of both the Israeli and Palestinian people are respected.”
The CBC endorsed Engel over Bowman just days before the George Floyd protests broke out. They did so despite, “Engel’s woeful indifference to the particular hardship endured by his Black constituents during the coronavirus outbreak, and the exceptional economic challenges they currently endure in the aftermath,” The American Prospect reported.
“Our membership knows that Eliot Engel will be there with his energy, his leadership, and his vote, especially in these times of crisis,” said Congressional Black Caucus Political Action Committee Chair Congressman Gregory Meeks, in a statement.