Former middle school principal Jamaal Bowman has toppled 16-term U.S. Rep. Eliot Engel in New York's Democratic primary in another upset victory for the party's insurgent wing.
A political novice who has never held public office before, Bowman, 44, was a progressive Black challenger who said Engel, the 73-year-old chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, had lost touch with his economically and racially diverse district.
Bowman declared victory in the race on June 24, a day after the primary election. The Associated Press was able to call the race Friday after obtaining an absentee vote count that showed Engel narrowly ahead among votes received by mail, but not by nearly the margin necessary to overcome Bowman’s Election Day advantage.
Engel conceded, saying: “The numbers are clear, and I will not be the Democratic nominee for the 16th Congressional District seat in the fall election.”
AP also called several Long Island congressional primaries on Friday, although most of the winners have been clear for weeks.
- Rep. Tom Suozzi (D-Glen Cove) won the Democratic primary in the 3rd Congressional District with 67%; Melanie D’Arrigo had 26%, Michael Weinstock 7%.
- Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-Queens) won the 5th District Democratic primary with 77% to Shaniyat Chowdhury’s 23%.
- Nancy Goroff of Stony Brook won the Democratic primary in the 1st District with 36%. Perry Gershon had 35%, Bridget Fleming 28%, and Gregory John Fischer 2%.
- Jackie Gordon of Babylon won the 2nd District Democratic primary with 77% to Pat Maher’s 23%. Gordon will face Assemb. Andrew Garbarino (R-Sayville) — who won the 2nd District Republican primary with 64% to Assemb. Michael LiPetri’s (R-South Farmingdale) 36% — in the contest to succeed Rep. Peter King (R-Seaford).
Bowman earned his extraordinary win in a campaign season upended first by the coronavirus outbreak, then by protests over the death of George Floyd.
“I’m a Black man who was raised by a single mother in a housing project. 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 said in a statement. Bowman said his campaign was anchored in the fight for racial and economic justice “and it resonated in every part of the district.”
Both candidates were unable to do traditional campaigning because of social distancing restrictions, but Bowman criticized Engel for staying at his home in Maryland as the pandemic turned his district in the Bronx and suburban Westchester County into one of the virus's most deadly hunting grounds.
Then, after protests over Floyd's death in Minnesota gave way to two nights of looting, Engel made a bad gaffe while appearing at a Bronx event where he joined other local politicians appealing for peace.
"If I didn’t have a primary, I wouldn’t care,” he said while pleading with the lead organizer for a chance to speak, in a comment picked up by a live microphone.
Engel, who is white, said he has “always believed that Black Lives Matter” and said his comments were taken out of context, but Bowman, who has spoken of his own experiences with police brutality, said they illustrated why the district needed new leadership.
By defeating Engel, Bowman replicated the success of democratic socialist Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who defeated another powerful New York City Democrat, Joe Crowley, in a neighboring congressional district two years ago.
With Yancey Roy