Bowman holds double-digit lead over Engel in NY primary
Progressive insurgent Jamaal Bowman was leading Rep. Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.) by double digits in one of the most heavily anticipated primaries of the year on Tuesday as officials continued to count votes.
Bowman, a former middle school principal who’s seen a late surge in the polls and in fundraising, garnered 61 percent of the vote early Wednesday morning with 85 percent of precincts reporting. Engel, a 16-term incumbent, trailed in second with 36 percent of the vote.
A win by Bowman would provide progressives with a huge win as a number of insurgent candidates have launched challenges against establishment Democrats or longtime incumbents. Their bids have received a boost amid the nationwide protests against racial injustice roiling the country after the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis.
Bowman would also become the second New York progressive to defeat a senior lawmaker after Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) stunned the political world by defeating then-House Democratic Caucus Chairman Joseph Crowley in a 2018 primary.
However, the count so far does not account for a surge in absentee ballots seen in New York after the coronavirus pandemic led states to boost their mailed vote options. 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.
As of June 12, nearly 1.1 million absentee ballot requests had been received by election officials. By comparison, fewer than 158,000 absentee ballots were requested in the 2016 presidential primary, according to the state Board of Elections.
In New York, absentee ballots must be postmarked by Tuesday and received no later than June 30, meaning that officials there will still be counting absentee ballots a week after the primaries.
Bowman cast an upbeat tone at a campaign speech Tuesday night, saying his campaign was part of a broader movement to combat discrimination in the country.
“So tonight as we celebrate, we don’t just celebrate me as an individual, we celebrate this movement, a movement designed to push back against a system that’s literally killing us. It’s killing black and brown bodies disproportionately, but it’s killing all of us,” he said.
Engel, who chairs the House Foreign Affairs Committee, faced criticism from Bowman and other Democrats over his absence from the district during the coronavirus pandemic.
Engel also committed a gaffe when he was caught on camera saying he needed to speak at an event against racial injustice and that he otherwise “wouldn’t care” were it not for the fact that he was facing a primary challenger.
Meanwhile, Bowman enjoyed a surge in endorsements, including from heavy hitters like Ocasio-Cortez and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), and saw a sudden fundraising spike in the lead-up to the primary.
Engel has sought to bolster his campaign by noting his high-profile perch on the Foreign Affairs panel and ability to needle President Trump and “bring home the bacon” for his constituents — but Bowman said he would be a more effective lawmaker for the district.
“Eliot Engel, and I’ll say his name once, used to say he’s a thorn in the side of Donald Trump. But you know what Donald Trump is more afraid of than anything else? A Black man with power,” he said on Tuesday night.
“The results show that this district is demanding change. This is what this district has been waiting for, this is what this country has been waiting for, and we are all here now together. So I am excited, I am happy, I am fired up. 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.”
Progressives expressed excitement over Bowman’s lead, saying he would tackle important issues facing his district.
“Jamaal led his campaign with love, heart and wisdom and it was an honor to work alongside him as he thoughtfully delved into issues important to our community. Tonight’s results look encouraging, and we’re excited to keep following the race closely as votes continue to be counted,” said IfNotNow Movement Political Director Emily Mayer.
Other New York races were called early, including Ocasio-Cortez’s, who inspired a slew of progressives to launch political careers. She easily fended off the well-funded former CNBC anchor Michelle Caruso-Cabrera.
Meanwhile, Rep. Grace Meng won the primary in the 6th District after facing Democratic challengers for the first time since taking office in 2013.
Among progressive challengers, the early results were mixed. New York Rep. Yvette Clarke held a more than 40-point edge over progressive Adem Bunkeddeko in the 9th District with 80 percent of precincts reporting.
But progressive Mondaire Jones was leading by about 24 points over his closest rival with 96 percent of precincts reporting in the race to replace retiring Rep. Nita Lowey in the 17th District.
Jones, much like Bowman in the neighboring 16th District, had attracted widespread progressive support in the primary after flying under the radar for months before the election. He would become the first openly Black openly gay member of Congress.
“Tonight’s primary victory not only sets Mondaire Jones on the path to becoming the first Black, openly gay member of Congress, it also sets him up to be one of the U.S. House’s newest champions for progressive priorities like the Medicare for All, the Green New Deal, and robust criminal justice reform,” said Yvette Simpson, CEO of Democracy for America, which endorsed him.