NEW YORK — Riding a wave of progressive momentum, Jamaal Bowman has officially unseated establishment Democrat Eliot Engel in New York’s primary to represent the 16th District, covering parts of the Bronx and Westchester.
Many votes cast by mail in the race have yet to be counted, but an AP analysis of absentee ballots returned so far indicated Friday that Bowman’s lead was too large for Engel to overcome.
Bowman declared victory in the race on June 24.
The race between Bowman and Engel, who has been in Congress since 1989, grabbed national headlines and big-name endorsements.
Bowman, who has worked as a middle school principal and teacher, was endorsed by Sens. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and former gubernatorial candidate and actress Cynthia Nixon.
He was considered Engel’s toughest primary challenge in two decades, and drew comparisons to Ocasio-Cortez, who beat Joe Crowley in 2018 to represent New York’s 14th District.
Engel’s campaign was marred by multiple gaffes.
In June, cameras captured Engel ask Bronx borough president Ruben Diaz Jr. to speak at a Black Lives Matter event Diaz had organized, saying “if I didn’t have a primary, I wouldn’t care.”
The Democratic chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee was also criticized for joining thousands of New Yorkers in fleeing the City amid the coronavirus pandemic. The Atlantic reported in May Engel hadn’t been in his district since at least the end of March.
Bowman, in a statement, noted how unlikely his story was.
“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.”
Engel thanked the community for allowing him to serve for over 30 years.
“Serving the people of the Bronx and Westchester in Congress has been the greatest privilege of my life, and what a remarkable 32 years it has been. We have made so much progress together, and faced so many challenges. Throughout those years, I have always worked as hard as humanly possible to represent my constituents as a progressive Democrat in Washington and as an involved, informed and present public servant in New York.”
Engel went on to wish Bowman well “as he begins this new chapter of his life.”