Progressive Newcomer Jamaal Bowman Ousts Longtime Rep. Eliot Engel in New York Primary

Jamaal Bowman speaks at a watch party in Yonkers, New York, June 23, 2020. (Lucas Jackson/Reuters)

Longtime Representative Eliot Engel was toppled in New York’s Democratic primary race on Friday by progressive political newcomer Jamaal Bowman.

Bowman, a former public middle school principal, received 55.5 percent of the vote compared to Engel’s 40.4 percent, with 100 percent of precincts reporting.

The major upset win by Bowman was anticipated after initial results showed him with a double-digit lead over the Engel, 73, the 16-term incumbent. The primary was held on June 23, but the results were not finalized until Friday, more than three weeks later, due to delays counting mail-in ballots.

“If we can take on entrenched power and wealthy interests here in Westchester and the Bronx, then we can do it all across this country,” Bowman said in a Twitter thread celebrating his win.

Bowman’s win echoes Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s 2018 primary win against powerful 10-term incumbent and Democratic Caucus Chair Joe Crowley in his Bronx and Queens district.

Bowman, who is Black, garnered the support of the Working Families Party as well as Justice Democrats, a progressive group that was a driving force behind Ocasio-Cortez’s campaign. Ocasio-Cortez herself joined Senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren in supportng Bowman.

Engel, the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, was a high-profile player in President Trump’s impeachment. His district, which includes parts of the Bronx and Westchester County, was hit particularly hard by the coronavirus pandemic, during which period Eliot remained at home in Washington, igniting criticism against him. Early last month, Eliot damaged his standing further when he was caught on a hot mic at a press conference on race issues saying, “if I didn’t have a primary, I wouldn’t care.”

“He was very clear, if he wasn’t in the primary race, he would not care about speaking to his constituents,” Bowman said last month of Engel’s comments. “People throughout the district told us he is not present, he is not engaged, he doesn’t care and it’s time for a change.”

Engel, a Bronx native, has been in Congress since 1989 and has also represented the Hudson Valley as well as Rockland County over his career in the lower chamber.

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