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Eliot Loses to Bowman in New York Democratic Primary

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Eliot Loses to Bowman in New York Democratic Primary

2020-07-17 17:58:09

By Laura Tucker, Staff writer; Image: Jamaal Bowman (Image source: Screenshot)

After a three-week wait, the Democratic House race in the 16th congressional district in New York has been decided. Former middle-school principal Jamaal Bowman has defeated the incumbent, Rep. Eliot Engel, who currently chairs the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

The decision came down three weeks past Election Day because of an unusually high number of mail-in ballots needed to be counted. The left came down with a win, ousting the 16-term congressman who had the endorsements of former senator and secretary of state Hillary Clinton and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

Bowman was able to take advantage of the movement for racial justice after the death of George Floyd at the knee of a white policeman in Minneapolis. He had endorsements from Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY).

Same-day voting showed the 44-year-old with a large enough lead that the morning after the primary, he issued a statement declaring victory, despite not being officially named the winner at the time.

"I'm a Black man who was raised by a single mother in a housing project," he tweeted Friday, shortly after the Associated Press called the race. "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."

He added that his message about "the police, about systemic racism, about inequality" had "resonated in every part of the district."

The 73-year-old Engel conceded later, saying that "the numbers are clear." He wished the winner well "as he begins this new chapter in his life."

He thanked his family and staff in a statement, as well as the voters in his district, "who 16 times decided to renew my two-year contract and send me back to Washington."

"What an honor to be the longest-serving congressman in the history of the Bronx," expressed Engel. "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."

The congressman was criticized during the race for not spending enough time in the district. Along with the northern Bronx, it also includes the southern half of Westchester County.

Putting the nail in his coffin, Engel was asked multiple times to speak at a Bronx news conference on protests over the George Floyd killing. He was overheard near a live microphone saying, "If I didn't have a primary, I wouldn't care."

Bowman seized on the opportunity, expressing that it was time for Engel to leave Congress. Engel tried to clarify his remarks later by saying he had wanted to show that he cares "deeply about what's happening in this country" while he seeks reelection. 

But with such a hotbed issue in this election year, and the primary election day so soon after his statement, it's clear the voters saw things differently.

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