Jamaal Bowman declares victory in NY congressional race

The former middle school principal leads incumbent Rep. Eliot Engel two-to-one, but the mail-in votes have not been counted.

Jamaal Bowman, above, is challenging longtime congressman Eliot Engel for his House seat (photo credit: BOWMAN FOR CONGRESS/JTA)
Jamaal Bowman, above, is challenging longtime congressman Eliot Engel for his House seat
WASHINGTON – Jamaal Bowman, a former middle school principal from New York, declared victory over Eliot Engel in the Democratic primary of the state’s 16th district.
Engel, a 16-term moderate Democrat, is the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee and is considered a staunch supporter of Israel.
Although there are still tens of thousands of ballots to count, Bowman currently holds a 25% lead over Engel, a gap Engel is unlikely to close.
Bowman tweeted on Wednesday: “I’m a Black man raised by a single mother in a housing project. That story doesn’t usually end in Congress. But today, that 11-year old boy beaten by police is about to be your Representative. I can’t wait to get to DC and cause problems for those maintaining the status quo.”
“We won, but that was only the beginning,” Bowman added.
To a larger extent, this election seemed like another aspect of the power struggle between moderate Democrats and progressive Democrats, with Bowman receiving endorsements from Sen. Elizabeth Warren, Sen. Bernie Sanders and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio Cortez, and Engel supported by former Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
The Democratic Majority for Israel was the most significant pro-Israeli PAC to back Engel, with over $1.3 million in ads, including negative TV ads that went after Bowman’s unpaid tax debt. DMFI president, Mark Mellman congratulated Bowman.
“We congratulate our fellow Democrat Jamaal Bowman, and his allies, on a great campaign and look forward to working with him as a Member of Congress,” Mellman said.
“Eliot Engel earned our support in this race by his forceful leadership on behalf of a progressive agenda, which includes a strong US-Israel relationship. His constituents apparently concluded, however, that he had lost touch with them, and that is, of course, wholly their decision to make,” the statement reads.
Mellman added that in the final hours of the campaign, “Mr. Bowman worked to burnish his pro-Israel credentials writing a newspaper op-ed stating his personal opposition to the BDS movement, his support for continued US aid to Israel, and backing Israel’s right to defend itself from Hamas and other terrorist groups.”
The resounding win by Ocasio-Cortez and Bowman’s lead over the longtime New York congressman signaled fresh momentum for progressive politics amid growing calls for economic and racial justice in the United States.
Tuesday’s nominating contests in New York, Kentucky and several other states pitted establishment Democrats against challengers pushing for sweeping change after the May 25 death of George Floyd, a Black man, while in Minneapolis police custody.
Early election results showed Black and other minority candidates putting up strong performances in several key contests.
“It may be that the recent focus on Black Lives Matter and racial inequities in policing opened Democratic voters’ eyes even more to Black candidates,” said Kyle Kondik, an elections analyst at the University of Virginia.
Halie Soifer, executive director of the Jewish Democratic Council of America, suggested to wait to the final results. “With far more voters casting absentee ballots than ever before, it’s clear that election results throughout this cycle will take longer to determine,” she said. “We eagerly await all votes to be counted in the New York, Virginia, and Kentucky primaries last night, and look forward to commenting on the results once they are official.”
According to The New York Times, Engel’s campaign said that because of “so many absentee ballots outstanding and many still coming in, we know that the full results of the primary won’t be known for some time.”
The Republican Jewish Coalition issued a statement, saying that Engel was defeated. “The shift in the Democrat Party away from support for Israel accelerated dramatically yesterday with the primary defeat of 16-term incumbent Democrat Rep. Eliot Engel by Justice Democrats-endorsed challenger Jamaal Bowman in New York’s 16th congressional district,” the statement read.
“Engel is a mainstream Democrat who has done a great deal for the US-Israel relationship as chairman of the powerful House Foreign Affairs Committee,” RJS said. “Bowman, who was recruited and supported by Justice Democrats, has an extreme and dangerous agenda. He subscribes to the full list of radical and anti-Israel policies espoused by Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, including support for the US rejoining the dangerous Iran nuclear deal and opposition to Israeli “settlements” in the “West Bank.” Bowman wants the US to use “financial leverage” to push Israel to make “peace” concessions to the Palestinians.”
“Jewish Republicans have had plenty of disagreements with Rep. Engel during his 32 years in Congress, but his defeat is a blow to the historically bipartisan support for Israel in the US Congress,” the statement reads. “Rep. Engel’s primary loss to a far-Left anti-Israel extremist clearly shows that the GOP is the only solidly pro-Israel party – led by the most pro-Israel President in US history, Donald J. Trump.”
Reuters contributed to this report.