Progressive challenger Jamaal Bowman, 44, looks like he’s on track to defeat long-standing Rep. Eliot Engel (D-NY) with a double-digit lead in one of the most anticipated primaries of the year.
Bowman, a middle school principal who experienced a late surge of fundraising and in the polls, had 61 percent of the vote early Wednesday morning with 85 percent of precincts reporting. Engel, a 16-term incumbent, was in second place with 36 percent of the vote.
The count so far does not include absentee ballots, which have seen a massive increase. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) ordered mail-in ballot applications to be sent to every registered voter in the state for the primary, which was delayed from late April due to the coronavirus pandemic.
“Eliot Engel — and I’ll say his name once — used to say that he was a thorn in the side of Donald Trump,” Bowman said on Tuesday night. “But you know what Donald Trump is more afraid of than anything else? A Black man with power.”
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As of June 12, almost 1.1 million absentee ballot requests were received by election officials, according to The Hill. Absentee ballots can be received in New York up to June 30, postmarked by June 23.
By running against Engel, Bowman took on the New York political Democratic establishment, running against Engel in the New York 16th Congressional District.
It is a district that includes portions of working-class Bronx and wealthy white areas of Westchester, as well as suburban areas like Mount Vernon, Yonkers and New Rochelle, NBC News reported.
The Congressional Black Caucus 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,” Congressional Black Caucus Political Action Committee Chair Congressman Gregory Meeks said in a statement.
On social media, Juneteenth 2020 @DannyDGlover tweeted, “If it wasn’t clear before tonight, I hope it is now. The CBC is disconnected from middle and lower black America. Do not listen to them.”
Unlike Engel, Bowman did not take a pro-Israel stance which bothered many in AIPAC — the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, a lobbying group that advocates pro-Israel policies to Congress and the president.
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.
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.”
While some of Bowman’s “policy positions may seem in line with Jewish values, the positions on Israel he has shared publicly are troubling,” the Jewish Telegraphic Agency reported.
Pro-Israel groups tried to save the incumbent Engel, spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on his re-election, including a TV ad that attacked Bowman for failing to pay some state taxes, The Intercept reported.
Bowman was endorsed by senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. If he wins, Bowman will be the second New York progressive to defeat a longstanding senior lawmaker. Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) caused a huge upset with her surprise defeat of 10-term former Congressman Joseph Crowley in 2018.
Engel was endorsed by Hillary Clinton.
In a speech to supporters on Tuesday night, Bowman promised to fight poverty, racism and sexism and other social ills — “a system that’s literally killing us.”
“That is what Donald Trump is afraid of,” he said. “I cannot wait to get to Congress and cause problems.”