The insurgent Jamaal Bowman almost declared victory over veteran representative Eliot Engel in a fiery victory speech Tuesday night.
Bowman led Engel by nearly 4,000 votes in the first returns in the Democratic primary for the 16th Congressional District spanning parts of the Bronx and Westchester. But tens of thousands of unopened absentee ballots have yet to be counted.
“You know what Donald Trump fears more than anything: a black man in power! Bowman, 44, a former Bronx high school principal, thundered.
“We are not celebrating tonight. We have a movement … I can’t wait to go to Congress and cause trouble. “
He said he was ready to combat “sexism, racism, classism, xenophobia.”
While it was premature to call the race, early returns were not a good sign for Engel, with Bowman rising 61 percent to 39 percent with just 19 percent of the votes counted.
The Engel-Bowman primaries symbolized the biggest tug-of-war between the more moderate establishment wing of the Democratic Party versus the emerging progressive left wing.
Engel was endorsed by the Democratic establishment, including Hillary Clinton, Governor Andrew Cuomo, Senate Democratic Minority Leader Charles Schumer, Speaker of the House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi, Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart- Cousins (D-Yonkers) and Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie (D-Bronx). The latter two have districts that overlap with Engel’s 16th Congressional District spanning parts of the Bronx and Westchester.
Bowman, a progressive, was backed by fellow left-handed MP Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren, the Working Families Party, Democrats for Justice, public defender Jumaane Williams and City Comptroller Scott Stringer.
Engel, 73, first elected in 1988, is chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee and a staunch ally of Israel.
But no favors were done during the campaign, which led to brutal headlines.
It was first revealed in The Atlantic magazine that Engel failed to set foot in his district for nearly two months as he battled one of the largest coronavirus outbreaks in the country. She stayed at her Maryland residence near DC
Engel later made a mistake when he returned to the district and attended a press conference in the Bronx.
At an event attended by local elected officials, he awkwardly asked Bronx County President Rubén Díaz Jr. over a hot microphone if he could comment.
When Diaz Jr. said there were too many people on the list, Engel muttered through his face mask: “If I didn’t have a primary, I wouldn’t mind.”
“What was that?” Diaz Jr. asked, according to audio captured on a live News 12 broadcast of the event and shared on Twitter by NY1 reporter Emily Ngo.
“Don’t do that to me,” Diaz Jr. chided him.
Bowman pounced on the farce and said Engel “completely lost contact” with the district during the coronavirus crisis.
At the end of the campaign, Engel slammed the 44-year-old Bowman’s voting record and his students’ performance on state tests when he was director of the Cornerstone Academy for Social Action. Bowman was previously a member of the Independence Party and re-registered as a Democrat two years ago.
For his part, Engel said the race was not over. He was unwilling to compromise until all votes were counted by mail.
“With so many absent ballots pending and many still on the way, we know that the full results of the primary will not be known for some time,” the Engel campaign said in a statement.
“Congressman Engel prides himself on his progressive track record and is looking forward to the final results of the full Democratic constituency in the Bronx and Westchester. The bottom line for Congressman Engel is that every voter deserves to be heard in our electoral system, and every primary vote must be counted to ensure that happens. That includes absentee ballots that only reached voters on the last day; they must be counted in each race ”.