Jamaal Bowman, a former educator and school principal from the Bronx in New York, appears to have defeated 16-term Rep. Eliot Engel Tuesday night in the Democratic primary for that seat in Congress.
Although votes were still being counted due to the large volume of absentee ballots, many news agencies were announcing Bowman’s win, and the candidate himself declared victory in a rousing speech that evening.
Addressing supporters, Bowman paid particular attention to the idea of poverty in the United States. “We live in a country where despite our financial wealth, we have tens of millions of children still living in poverty,” he said.
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Bowman expanded upon the subject, noting that poverty was not something that happened as a result of a person’s actions, but was more institutional.
“Poverty is not the result of children and families who don’t work hard. Our children and families work as hard as anyone else,” Bowman explained. “Poverty is by political design, and it’s rooted in a system that has been fractured and corrupt and rotten from its core from the inception of America, especially over the last several decades.
“Poverty, and the impact of poverty on our children, and dealing with issues of institutional racism, and sexism, and classism, and xenophobia, and everything that keeps the majority of us oppressed is what we designed this campaign to fight against,” he added.
Jamaal Bowman, who has a lead in his primary against Eliot Engel, just spoke to supporters. "Our movement is designed to restore that faith, to restore that hope, to bring back the belief in what is possible, to root our values in everything we do." pic.twitter.com/wkt0E0gd6Z
— Spectrum News NY1 (@NY1) June 24, 2020
Bowman urged supporters to celebrate his victory as a “movement designed to push back against a system that’s literally killing us.”
“It’s killing Black and brown bodies disproportionately — but it’s killing all of us,” the congressman-elect said.
Bowman’s win over an establishment Democrat comes just two years after the historic win of Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, also of New York, who defeated then-Rep. Joe Crowley, who had been viewed at the time as a possible successor to Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi within the party. Both Ocasio-Cortez’s win in 2018 and Bowman’s victory in 2020 may signal a shift in Democratic Party politics toward more progressive stances and viewpoints.
The race between Bowman and Engel became more contentious as uprisings started up in late May and early June, in response to police killings of Black individuals across the country, including George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and several others.
Engel faced severe criticism when, while speaking at an event to address those uprisings, he was caught on a “hot mic” expressing why he was there to begin with.
“If I didn’t have a primary, I wouldn’t care,” Engel could be heard saying.
As Bowman is now likely to win Engel’s seat in the general election in the heavily-democratic district, he has promised to continue working against policies that President Donald Trump has put forward, if Trump is still president next year.
“Eliot Engel — and I’ll say his name once — used to say he was a thorn in the side of Donald Trump,” Bowman said on Tuesday night. “You know what Donald Trump is more afraid of than anything else? A Black man with power. That is what Donald Trump is afraid of.”