Radical hard-left Jamaal Bowman set to oust Rep. Eliot Engel in major progressive power grab


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Progressive Jamaal Bowman set to oust Rep. Eliot Engel in major progressive power grab

By The Intercept, June 24, 2020

IN WHAT LOOKS to be a major victory for the progressive wing of the Democratic Party, Jamaal Bowman, a middle school principal from the Bronx, is set to oust Rep. Eliot Engel — the top Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee — in the New York primary.

“Eliot Engel — and I’ll say his name once — used to say that he was a thorn in the side of Donald Trump,” Bowman said in a de facto victory speech on Tuesday night. “But you know what Donald Trump is more afraid of than anything else? A black man with power.”

Despite a last-ditch effort to save the hawkish Democrat, including an endorsement by former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Bowman came away with a 24-point lead early Wednesday in the primary in New York’s 16th Congressional District — which includes portions of the Bronx and Westchester County, and the town of New Rochelle — pending mail-in ballots. Pro-Israel groups also scrambled to save the 16-term incumbent, spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on his re-election, including a TV ad that attacked Bowman for failing to pay some of his state taxes over the years. This was Engel’s first competitive primary challenge since 2000.

Bowman’s primary challenge really began picking up steam when protests against police brutality erupted nationwide. The 44-year-old insurgent ran primarily on Medicare for All, a Green New Deal, and other policies addressing issues of racial and economic justice. Though his focus was on domestic issues, he did criticize Engel over his deference to military contractors and certain foreign policy positions, including his support for the Iraq War. Bowman, who supports defunding the police and repealing the 1994 crime bill (which Engel backed), drew on his own experiences with police violence as a black man and teenager in the Bronx.

The protests lent momentum to a number of progressive candidates in New York on Tuesday. Though full results won’t come in until mail-in ballots are counted, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez handily defeated her Wall Street-backed opponent, Mondaire Jones appears to be the Democratic favorite in another House race, and left-wing challengers in state legislative races are all ahead as of early Wednesday morning. It’s also a big primary night for Justice Democrats, the group that recruited Ocasio-Cortez to run in 2018, and which heavily backed Bowman.

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