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Progressives riding high as votes tabulated in NY, Kentucky

Progressives are riding high after Tuesday’s primary elections in New York and Kentucky have some of the left’s rising stars in position to potentially pull off upsets against candidates backed by Washington Democrats.

The primary races in many instances have not been called yet, with hundreds of thousands of absentee ballots still needing to be counted.

However, progressive Jamaal Bowman (D) has House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Eliot EngelEliot Lance EngelTrump appointee sparks bipartisan furor for politicizing media agency Office of Special Counsel widens Pompeo probe into Hatch Act violations  Overnight Defense: Trump, Biden set to meet in final debate | Explicit Fort Bragg tweets were sent by account administrator | China threatens retaliation over Taiwan arms sale MORE (D-N.Y.) on the ropes after building up a 25-point lead among those who voted in-person.

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In the night’s other marquee race, progressive challenger Charles Booker trails Amy McGrath by about 7 points in the Kentucky Democratic Senate primary. The state’s two most populous counties will not report results until June 30.

Elsewhere, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-CortezAlexandria Ocasio-CortezBitter fight over Barrett fuels calls to nix filibuster, expand court Scaramucci says Trump has united country: 'It just happens to be against him' CNN won't run pro-Trump ad warning Biden will raise taxes on middle class MORE (D-N.Y.) overwhelmingly won her reelection bid against a high-profile challenge from news anchor Michelle Caruso-Cabrera, who had millions of dollars and top New York business leaders behind her.

Other progressive House candidates in New York — Mondaire Jones, Ritchie Torres and Dana Balter — have built up double-digit leads in their House primary races.

And insurgent Democrat Suraj Patel is running even with House Oversight and Reform Committee Chairwoman Carolyn MaloneyCarolyn Bosher MaloneyTrump, House lawyers return to court in fight over subpoena for financial records Safeguarding US elections by sanctioning Russian sovereign debt Fears grow of voter suppression in Texas MORE (D-N.Y.), underscoring the volatile landscape incumbents and Washington-backed candidates are facing at the moment.

The left-wing Working Families Party (WFP), which has its largest presence in New York, said Tuesday’s elections are evidence that the uprising in the streets over the police killing of George Floyd has ushered in a new era of political change in the U.S. that is being led by people of color.

“The rage and mourning we've seen in the streets is making itself felt in elections from New York to Kentucky,” said WFP National Director Maurice Mitchell.

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“A remarkable cadre of candidates — Charles Booker, Jamaal Bowman, and Mondaire Jones — has gained momentum in recent weeks because they are speaking to people's pain and hunger for transformational change. Win or lose, these Black progressive candidates are expanding the scope of the possible and laying the ground for the future of our work … Today we're seeing that they may form the core of a new multiracial coalition that could change the balance of power in this country.”

Absentee ballots are still being counted in New York and Kentucky and the final results will not be known until June 30.

But Bowman, a former middle school principal from the Bronx, appears to be on the cusp of defeating Engel, a 16-term lawmaker. Bowman has 61 percent of the vote as of Wednesday morning, compared to 36 percent for Engel.

That race cut sharply along progressive-establishment lines, with Engel having the support of New York Gov. Andrew CuomoAndrew CuomoRand Paul rips 'leftwing media' for focusing on COVID-19 cases: 'Mortality rates are plummeting' Trump aide accuses CNN's Chris Cuomo of breaking quarantine while COVID-19 positive in heated interview New York surpasses half a million COVID-19 cases MORE, Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerHouse Democrats introduce bill to invest 0 billion in STEM research and education Graham dismisses criticism from Fox Business's Lou Dobbs Lewandowski: Trump 'wants to see every Republican reelected regardless of ... if they break with the president' MORE (D-N.Y.), and 2016 Democratic presidential nominee Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonGorsuch rejects Minnesota Republican's request to delay House race Biden leads Trump by 6 points in Nevada: poll The Memo: Women could cost Trump reelection MORE. Bowman is backed by Ocasio-Cortez and Sens. Bernie SandersBernie SandersIntercept bureau chief says congressional progressives looking to become stronger force in 2021 Obama book excerpt: 'Hard to deny my overconfidence' during early health care discussions Americans have a choice: Socialized medicine or health care freedom MORE (I-Vt.) and Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenOvernight Defense: Dems want hearing on DOD role on coronavirus vaccine | US and India sign data-sharing pact | American citizen kidnapped in Niger Conservative operatives Wohl, Burkman charged in Ohio over false robocalls Senate Democrats want hearing on Pentagon vaccine effort MORE (D-Mass.).

Those same dynamics played out in Kentucky, where Booker became a national star on the left for his late push to knock off McGrath, who had a massive fundraising advantage with the help of Washington Democrats.

Booker, who is Black, has leaned heavily into the argument that he is best equipped to oversee the kind of structural change the nation needs at this moment of civil unrest.

Progressives are striking a confident tone on Booker’s behalf, with the Progressive Change Campaign Committee (PCCC) calling on McGrath to pledge to put her excess campaign cash behind Booker in the general election against Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellBitter fight over Barrett fuels calls to nix filibuster, expand court Trump blasts Obama speech for Biden as 'fake' after Obama hits Trump's tax payments White House hoping for COVID-19 relief deal 'within weeks': spokeswoman MORE (R-Ky.), if he becomes the nominee.

Ocasio-Cortez, who has become a fundraising juggernaut with one of the largest House campaign staffs in the country, was never really in trouble despite the high-profile challenge from Caruso-Cabrera.

But progressives are celebrating her dominant victory as evidence that they have cemented themselves in the mainstream. In 2018, Ocasio-Cortez stunned the political world with her shocking victory over then-House Democratic Caucus Chairman Joseph Crowley (D-N.Y.).

“Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez not only proved that her historic victory in 2018 was no fluke, she firmly established herself as a political powerhouse who will be critical to building a more progressive Democratic Party in the years ahead,” said Yvette Simpson, CEO of the progressive group Democracy for America.

Progressives are salivating over what they view as the next potential crop of political stars to follow in Ocasio-Cortez’s footsteps.

Jones has a 24-point lead over his closest rival in the packed crowd of candidates seeking to replace Rep. Nita LoweyNita Sue LoweyOffice of Special Counsel widens Pompeo probe into Hatch Act violations  Finger-pointing picks up in COVID-19 relief fight Top House Democrats call for watchdog probe into Pompeo's Jerusalem speech MORE (D) in New York’s 17th District and is backed by Sanders, Warren and Ocasio-Cortez.

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Getting Jones elected was a top priority for the Congressional Progressive Caucus PAC. The group spent about $200,000 backing Jones's candidacy, its first-ever independent expenditure.

In New York’s 15th District, Torres has an 11-point lead over a crowded field vying to replace retiring Rep. José Serrano (D). The progressive super PAC Voter Protection Project was the largest outside spender in the race, putting more than $500,000 behind TV, mail, digital and text ads backing Torres.

Torres, 32, is Black, Puerto Rican and gay. He was a 2016 delegate for Sanders’s presidential campaign.

Jones and Torres, if elected, would become the first openly gay Black men in Congress. 

And progressive favorite Dana Balter appears to be on course to win her primary in New York’s 24th District to challenge Rep. John KatkoJohn Michael KatkoWarren, Porter to headline progressive fundraiser supporting seven swing state candidates Trump fuels and frustrates COVID-19 relief talks Trump says talks on COVID-19 aid are now 'working out' MORE (R-N.Y.).

Balter has about a 30-point lead over Francis Conole, who had the support of local Democratic leaders.

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“This is one of the last districts in America that Hillary Clinton won but is held by Republicans, making this a top pick-up opportunity in the country for progressives,” said Maria Langholz, the national press secretary for the PCCC. “Balter is a bold progressive champion who is fighting for Medicare for All, an economy that works for working families, and a political system free from the influence of big money.’

Progressives are now turning their attention to upcoming primary races.

Several left-wing groups have backed Democrat Andrew Romanoff in the Colorado Senate primary against former Colorado Gov. John HickenlooperJohn HickenlooperBiden and Schumer face battles with left if Democrats win big Push to expand Supreme Court faces Democratic buzzsaw Democratic super PAC pulls remaining ads from Colorado Senate race MORE (D).

Sen. Ed MarkeyEdward (Ed) John MarkeyBitter fight over Barrett fuels calls to nix filibuster, expand court FCC reaffirms order rolling back net neutrality regulations Markey rips GOP for support of Amy Coney Barrett: Originalism 'just a fancy word for discrimination' MORE (D-Mass.) is the progressive favorite as he seeks reelection against Rep. Joe KennedyJoseph (Joe) Patrick KennedyDozens of legal experts throw weight behind Supreme Court term limit bill Presidential debate proves the power of the climate movement Democrats see fundraising spike following Ginsburg death MORE III (D-Mass.).

The left is also hoping to elect House candidates across the country, including Arati Kreibich in New Jersey, Jon Hoadley in Michigan and Candace Valenzuela and Mike Siegel in Texas.