Justice Democrats back principal’s primary challenge to top House Dem
A middle school principal in New York who’s launching a bid to unseat a powerful House Democrat is finding help from the same group that helped Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez win her long-shot bid in the 2018 midterm elections.
Jamaal Bowman, from Yonkers, will challenge Rep. Eliot Engel, a 16-term incumbent. Bowman has the backing of the progressive political action committee Justice Democrats, which helped Ocasio-Cortez and Rep. Ayanna Pressley, a Massachusetts Democrat, unseat the incumbent Democrats in their respective districts.
Bowman is the first candidate from New York to be backed by Justice Democrats in the 2020 election, and the second 2020 candidate the group has backed across the country. Last week, it announced its endorsement of Jessica Cisneros, a human rights lawyer, in her bid to represent Texas’ 28th Congressional District.
Ocasio-Cortez defeated then-Rep. Joe Crowley, the third-ranked Democrat in the House in the last Congress, in her primary. She went on to become the youngest woman elected to Congress after easily winning the general election race.
Justice Democrats has backed some of the most high-profile liberals in Congress. Along with Ocasio-Cortez and Pressley, the group helped Democratic Reps. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota and Rashida Tlaib of Michigan become the first two Muslim women to serve in Congress. The group also backed Reps. Raul Grijalva of Arizona, Ro Khanna of California and Pramila Jayapal of Washington state.
Engel, who chairs the House Foreign Affairs Committee, has served in Congress since 1989 and has rarely faced a serious challenge in his district. He won his primary with nearly 74% of the vote in 2018 and won the general election with 100% of the vote. It was a similar story in 2016, when he won almost 95% of the vote in the general election.
The representative’s 30 years of experience and impressive electoral record do not appear to daunt Bowman. The challenger uses his campaign announcement to underscore the policies Engel has backed, namely his support for the Iraq War, Wall Street deregulation, school privatization and building more prisons.
Bowman’s platform is based on various progressive policies. In his launch video, he outlines his desire to “make public college free, (legislate) Medicare for all people, universal child care, criminal justice reform and the Green New Deal.”
Bowman is one of two current challengers for Engel’s seat in 2020.