Progressive challenger Jamaal Bowman is on track to defeat Representative Eliot Engel (D., N.Y.) in the Democratic primary for New York’s 16th district.
Bowman, a former middle school teacher from the Bronx, has garnered 62 percent of the vote as of Wednesday, compared with Engel’s 35 percent. The primary will not be formally called for some time because of a surge in mail-in ballots due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Assuming the current results hold, Engel will lose after serving 16 terms in the House, where he rose to prominence as the head of the Foreign Affairs Committee. Engel faced criticism after it was revealed he had chosen to remain near Washington, D.C. for weeks during the pandemic. Engels district covers parts of Westchester and the Bronx, both of which saw high numbers of coronavirus cases and deaths.
The congressman also drew ire after being caught on hot mic asking to speak at a George Floyd demonstration in the Bronx because of the upcoming primary.
“If I didn’t have a primary I wouldn’t care,” Engel told rally organizer and Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. Diaz responded, “Don’t to this to me. We’re not going to do this.”
The race between Engel and Bowman was seen as a proxy battle between establishment and progressive Democrats. Hillary Clinton and Senator Chuck Schumer (D., N.Y.) endorsed Engel, while Bowman received the backing of Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D., N.Y.) and Senator Elizabeth Warren (D., Mass.).
“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.”
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.”