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A Black Progressive Beat a 16-Term Democrat in a Heated New York Congressional Primary

Michael Bowman

Addy Baird – Ryan Brooks,
BuzzFeed News Reporters

Jamaal Bowman, a former educator and middle school principal from the Bronx, declared victory Wednesday over Rep. Eliot Engel, a 16-term member of Congress who represents New York’s 16th congressional district.


The primary win is a galvanizing moment for national progressives, just two years after Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who backed Bowman, sparked a new wave of progressive organizing to push the Democratic Party further left. And, like with Ocasio-Cortez’s success in 2018, it is another win for a challenger who cast the incumbent as too out of touch with their district.


“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 Wednesday morning. “I cannot wait to get to Washington and cause problems for the people maintaining the status quo.”
New York is still counting votes and may be for days, with a huge increase in absentee voting during the coronavirus pandemic. But Decision Desk HQ and others have found that Bowman’s lead over Engel is too great for the incumbent to make up.


Engel released a statement Wednesday afternoon saying he did not believe Bowman should declare victory before absentee ballots have been counted. “Any declarative statement on the outcome of this race right now is premature and undermines the democratic process,” the statement said.
Bowman’s candidacy was propelled over the last month by national protests against police brutality and a surging Black Lives Matter movement. He was one of several Black candidates to have a strong result in Tuesday’s elections.


“Tonight as we celebrate, we don’t just celebrate me as an individual, we celebrate this movement,” Bowman said during a speech Tuesday night. “A movement designed to push back against a system that’s literally killing us. It’s killing Black and brown bodies disproportionately, but it’s killing all of us.”


During his remarks, Bowman said he would only mention his opponent once.
“Eliot Engel, and I’ll say his name once, used to say he was a thorn in the side of Donald Trump. But you know what Donald Trump is more afraid of than anything else? A Black man with power,” he said.

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