Long-time Democrat Congressman Engel's concession appears imminent as final mail-in ballots counted

Engel's loss is the latest in a string of losses by establishment Democrats to younger, more progressive candidates

Last Updated:
June 29, 2020 - 2:24pm

The Facts Inside Our Reporter’s Notebook

Despite more than 30-years in office and the endorsements of several high-profile establishment Democrats, including Hillary Clinton, Chuck Schumer, and Nancy Pelosi, New York Rep. Eliot Engel is on the verge of losing his June 22.

According to data from the New York Times and Decision Desk HQ, progressive candidate Jamaal Bowman, a former middle school principal in the Bronx, continues to lead the 16-term incumbent by a margin of about 25%.

However, the official will not be made official until Tuesday. 

Engel is the fourth member of the House to lose a primary battle this year, which is in keeping with the recent average for House races. However, he now also becomes part of a trend of young, progressives ousting long-term establishment figures from the legislative branch. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) found a similar path to victory two years ago, when she upset incumbent Rep. Joe Crowley, who had served in Congress for the better part of two decades and was considered a contender to take Pelosi post as the chamber's top Democrat. 

Bowman now leads Engel by roughly 1,000 votes in New York's 16th congressional district, which encompasses parts of the Bronx and Westchester County.

Bowman, a political newcomer, had an unusually strong showing of support both in early voting and on election day turn-out. The results of the New York primary, which was rescheduled for last week from its original late April date, will not be made official until the state board of elections has had time (one week) to tally the higher-than-usual number of mail in ballots that it received due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The New York State Board of Elections has not yet released any final numbers from the 16th district primary, but even with the ultimate count of additional ballots, Engel would have to receive a nearly impossible margin of the remaining votes to catch up to Bowman. 

Bowman received endorsements from Ocasio-Cortez and progressive-mined Sens. Bernie Sanders, aVermont Independent, and Elizabeth Warren, a Massachusetts Democrat.

The focal point of Bowman's campaign was racial inequality and economic inequality in the district. He is also a member of the Democratic Socialists of America.

Engel, on the other hand, was frequently accused of prioritizing a career and life in D.C. over his constituents. He was criticized for rarely making appearances in his district, and was caught during an unfortunate hot-mic moment during the campaign where he confirmed that he likely wouldn't be making appearances in his district if not for his primary challenger.

Even to his core supports, Engel has branded himself primarily as a leader on matters of foreign relations. He is currently the chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, and is one of, if not the, staunchest supporter of Israel in the Democratic caucus.

Last week, President Trump commented last week on Engel's race to Fox host Sean Hannity.

"Eliot Engel was a pretty mainline guy, he lost by like 37 points or so. ... He just got killed in the election we just had yesterday. He was supposed to be a shoo-in and he got hit by a strong far left candidate."

Trump was using Engel's race to point to the inevitability of the historically moderate Joe Biden being pushed further to the left based on the terms and patterns of current Democratic party members.

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