The race heated up down the stretch, as Engel, who has not faced a serious challenger in years, received strong support from moderate Democrats, including Hillary Clinton and party leaders on Capitol Hill, and benefited from a late waste of external expenses. . Bowman, a recruit for Justice Democrats, is backed by Ocasio-Cortez and Sens. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren.
New York delayed its primaries due to the coronavirus and offered voters the opportunity to cast their ballots by mail, meaning the results in District 16 and across the state may not be known for a week or more. But Bowman’s victory would be a resounding rebuke to the establishment of the Democratic Party in both the state and Washington, DC, and a reason for optimism among disappointed progressives after Sanders fell short in his second presidential offer earlier this year. .
Engel did himself no favors in recent months, it was national news for a couple of missteps that played directly with Bowman’s argument that, after more than thirty years on the job, the co-dean of the state delegation he had lost contact with his district.
The first came when it was revealed that Engel had spent New York City’s worst coronavirus crisis at his home in Maryland, hours from one of the country’s worst-hit districts. Engel, in an interview with CNN, reasoned that he was following the doctor’s orders, saying that his home on the outskirts of Washington is bigger than his apartment in the city, and therefore is better suited to quarantine with his wife.
But the most damaging episode came in early June, when a live microphone caught Engel asking to speak at a press conference in the Bronx. After being told there was no time, Engel defended her case.
“My reaction was, ‘We know.’ That was my reaction,” Bowman told CNN when asked about the comment. “We know that if you didn’t have a primary, you wouldn’t mind. That’s why we criticized him before then for being absent during the pandemic, that’s why we’ve been critical of him for living in Maryland for 27 of the 31 years he’s been in the office while his district has suffered. “
Engel has repeatedly rejected the suggestion that maintaining a Maryland home or being absent from the district earlier this year will hurt him on Tuesday. Instead, he notes his seniority on Capitol Hill and his voting record.
“Voters are not stupid. They vote for me every two years because they know I care about them,” Engel told CNN. “I work hard for them, I produce for them and vote how they would like me to vote. And I have been very, very effective.”
Engel and Bowman are supporters of “Medicare for All” and other major progressive national priorities, but Engel is among the most aggressive members of the Democratic House, having voted in favor of the Iraq War and against the nuclear deal with Iran, as it regularly lands to the right of Most of the caucus on issues related to Israel and the Palestinians.
The Democratic majority for Israel has been the biggest outside spender in the race, increasing its payouts in recent weeks: its total as of June 22 exceeded $ 1.5 million. That included an announcement directed at Bowman over an old tax debt, which was roundly criticized before the Engel campaign released a statement asking DMFI, which also spent heavily on Sanders during the presidential primaries, “to consider eliminating it.”
Other groups, with names like Perise Practical and Avacy Initiatives, have also spent hundreds of thousands in support of Engel.
Bowman was given a boost of his own, albeit to a lesser degree, by the late infusion of outside money into the race. A joint, independent spending group made up of Justice Democrats and the Working Families Party ended up spending more than approximately $ 1.3 million on their behalf.
Justice Democrats, which also recruited and launched the 2018 Ocasio-Cortez campaign, narrowed its sights on 2020, focusing on fewer races and supporting a more select group of insurgent candidates.
“It is extremely rare that a Democrat in Congress is not replaced by a more progressive candidate and because of all the coverage the Tea Party received and its influence on the Republican Party, they were only able to topple three House Republicans, at most, at any time, “Justice Democrats communications director Waleed Shahid told CNN. “So if Jamaal wins, it will show that there is still energy for progressive leadership.”
CNN’s MJ Lee contributed to this report.