Veteran U.S. Congressman Engel defeated by liberal Bowman in New York primary

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Liberal Black former middle-school principal Jamaal Bowman has ousted veteran Democratic U.S. Representative Eliot Engel from the congressional seat representing parts of New York City that he was first elected to in 1988.

The primary race was closely watched as a test of the strength of the Democratic Party’s left wing after moderate Joe Biden became the presumptive presidential nominee.

The New York Times and the Associated Press both called the result of the June 23 election on Friday.

According to the New York Times, Bowman prevailed by 11,717 votes, winning 55.5% to Engel’s 40.4%.

“The numbers are clear and I will not be the Democratic nominee for the 16th Congressional District seat in the fall election,” the 73-year-old Engel said in a statement.

With his primary victory, Bowman, 44, has ended the long House of Representatives career of Engel, who is the chairman of the chamber’s powerful Foreign Affairs Committee.

Bowman’s prospects for winning in the Nov. 3 general election are strong in what is considered to be a safe Democratic seat.

In a Twitter posting, Bowman said, “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.”

His victory reflects momentum by progressives and minority candidates against older, establishment Democrats amid a national outcry against racism after the death of George Floyd, a Black man, in police custody in May.

So far in this election cycle, five incumbents in the House — two Democrats and three Republicans — have been defeated in their re-election bids by challengers from their own parties.

Engel, whose congressional district is centered in the Bronx, New York City’s poorest borough, and Westchester County, won re-election in 2018 with 99% of the vote in the heavily Democratic area.

Bowman’s campaign got a significant boost in his race against Engel with endorsements from progressive leaders, including Senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren.

Engel won the support of establishment Democrats, including 2016 presidential nominee Hillary Clinton.

It took over three weeks to get full results of the June 23 primary because of the large number of mail-in votes.

With the coronavirus pandemic raging in the United States, voters in many state primaries opted to cast mail-in ballots, bringing new challenges to elections officials.

Bowman, an advocate of single-payer health care and the Green New Deal to drastically lower carbon emissions blamed for climate change, said on election night that he could not wait to get to Washington “and cause problems for the people maintaining the status quo.”

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