New York primaries: progressive Jamaal Bowman claims victory

Former presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, the speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, the leader of the Democrats in the Senate, Chuck Schumer… These centrist figures of the Democratic establishment had all lined up as one man behind the candidacy of a party baron, Eliot Engel, sixteen terms in office. counter and representative for more than thirty years in the House of a constituency in northern New York. His probable defeat to his opponent Jamaal Bowman, a 44-year-old African-American educator new to politics, backed by leading progressives, from elected Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez to Senators Bernie Sanders or Elizabeth Warren, resonates well with the – beyond his constituency.

It once again illustrates the ideological tensions within the Democratic Party, visible since the 2016 presidential election and embodied by the Clinton-Sanders duel. And sounds like a disavowal for the supporters of a centrist political line, two years after the surprise victory of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in a neighboring New York constituency, straddling the Bronx and Queens, which has since become one of the faces of the American left in Congress. And already, facing another cacique of the party, Joseph Crowley, reputed to be indestructible. “AOC” was also widely re-elected on Tuesday to continue to represent the 14e New York District in the House. Despite the presence of a rival in front of her, Michelle Caruso-Cabrera, a 53-year-old former journalist registered as a Republican until 2015, financed by billionaires on Wall Street (notably the bosses of Blackstone or Goldman Sachs) in the assumed goal of dislodging it.

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“Causing problems for those who want to maintain the status quo”

The results of the Democratic primary for the 16the district of New York, held on Tuesday, are not yet official: in this state, the counting of the postal ballots, many more numerous than usual because of the coronavirus pandemic, can only begin ‘one week after election day in the state. But according to analyst David Wasserman, a recognized expert on election forecasting, Bowman’s lead (61.8% of the vote) is too big for Engel (34.9%) to catch up with him. Bowman also claimed victory on Wednesday: “I’m a black man raised by a single mother in social housing: this story doesn’t usually end in Congress, he wrote on Twitter. But today the 11-year-old boy who was beaten by the police is about to represent you in the House. I look forward to being in Washington and causing trouble for those who want to maintain the status quo. We won, but this is only the start. ”

In this Democratic stronghold (the last elected Republican dates back to the 1940s), which includes the northern Bronx and Westchester County, north of New York City, no Republican candidate is even registered for the general election ( but a candidate from the Conservative Party, Patrick McManus, still seems to be in contention). Jamaal Bowman is therefore almost guaranteed to be elected representative to the lower house of Congress on November 3. Bowman’s career hits home in a country plagued by a historic movement of anger against racism and police violence. Accompanied by a demand for greater racial representation, which was thus reflected in the ballot box.

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Known in his constituency as the principal of the Cornerstone Academy for Social Action, a reputable college he founded in the Bronx, Jamaal Bowman won over voters with his social justice program, in the midst of the economic crisis. the coronavirus pandemic. The 16e New York district indeed includes the city of New Rochelle, which was the first epicenter of the epidemic in the region. His likely victory validates the strategy of the Justice Democrats, a political action committee created by former members of Sanders’ campaign in 2016, which backed his campaign: to identify suitable candidates to challenge centrist Democrats in constituencies won over gone, and push the House to the left.

The march was high, however: Eliot Engel, firmly established in Washington DC, has occupied, since the victory of the Democrats in the midterms of 2018, the chairmanship of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. But the elected official has been widely criticized in recent months, in particular for having spent the worst of the Covid-19 epidemic hidden in his house in Maryland, far from his constituency for two months. Not really in tune with the times, Eliot Engel was also surprised by a camera during a Black Lives Matter demonstration in early June, in the wake of the death of George Floyd killed by a white police officer in Minneapolis. In the images, we see him approaching the stand, while affirming that if there was no primary, he would not care to speak there.

More primary results in New York State are still pending. But the forecasts confirm a tendency for voters to choose candidates from minorities and more progressive than their elders. Two ballots, for seats in the House of Representatives occupied by retiring Democrats, drew particular attention: one to represent part of the Bronx, where Ritchie Torres, elected to the city council of the city of New York, is in the lead. The other for the Hudson Valley, where Mondaire Jones, a Harvard graduate lawyer, backed by AOC, Sanders and Warren, is ahead of his six opponents. Analyst David Wasserman gives them the winners. If elected in November, these candidates, both 32, will be the first openly gay black elected to the United States Congress.

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Isabelle Hanne correspondent in New York

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