Jamaal Bowman, a former middle school principal, has ousted longtime Rep. Eliot L. Engel in a closely watched Democratic congressional primary in New York that shaped up as a generational and ideological contest.
Bowman’s projected win came more than three weeks after Election Day following the tabulation of an unusually high number of mail-in ballots. It was a victory for the left wing of the party over a powerful 16-term Democrat who chairs the House Foreign Affairs Committee and had the endorsement of Hillary Clinton, the party’s 2016 presidential nominee, and Democratic Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo.
Bowman seized on the momentum of the movement for racial justice after incidents of police brutality and picked up endorsements from several leading liberal luminaries on the national stage, including Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y.
Bowman issued a statement the morning after the primary declaring victory in the 16th congressional district, as same-day voting showed him with a sizable lead.
“I’m a Black man who was raised by a single mother in a housing project,” he said in a tweet Friday, shortly after that race was called by the Associated Press. “That story doesn’t usually end in Congress. But today, that 11-year old boy who was beaten by police is about to be your next Representative.”
Bowman added that his message about “the police, about systemic racism, about inequality” had “resonated in every part of the district.”
Engel, 73, later conceded, saying “the numbers are clear” and wishing Bowman, 44, well “as he begins this new chapter in his life.”
In a statement, Engel also thanked his family and staff, as well as the voters of his district, “who 16 times decided to renew my two-year contract and send me back to Washington.”
“[W]hat an honor to be the longest-serving Congressman in the history of the Bronx,” Engel said. “I never for a minute thought of this as my seat. It’s the people’s seat, and it is a true honor that you put your trust in me to represent you in the greatest legislative body in the world.”
During the race, Engel faced criticism that he had not spent enough time in the district, which includes the northern Bronx and the southern half of Westchester County.
In June, Engel generated headlines after he repeatedly asked to speak at a Bronx news conference on protests over the killing by Minneapolis police of George Floyd, then said near a live microphone, “If I didn’t have a primary, I wouldn’t care.”
Bowman cited the statement as a sign that it’s time for Engel to leave Congress.
Engel sought to clarify his remarks later in the day, saying in a statement that he had wanted to convey that he cares “deeply about what’s happening in this country” while he seeks reelection.
(c) 2020, The Washington Post · John Wagner