Primary showdowns in New York and Kentucky today as progressive candidates challenge the status quo

Congressional primaries in New York are heating up, and in Kentucky, the competition to face-off against Leader McConnell is fierce

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Voters at the polls
Voters at the polls
(Mario Tama / Getty Images)
Last Updated:
June 23, 2020 - 3:35pm

The Facts Inside Our Reporter’s Notebook

Voters go to the polls Tuesday to cast ballots in highly competitive congressional primary races in New York, Kentucky, and Virginia – with progressive candidates again trying to unseat establishment incumbents in Democratic contests.  

North Carolina, South Carolina and Mississippi are also holding runoff elections for various congressional and legislative races.

One race that has the potential to upset the status quo is taking place in New York’s 16th congressional district.

Democratic Rep. Eliot Engel, who has been in Congress for 31 years, is facing off against candidate Jamaal Bowman, a former middle school principal who has garnered the high-profile endorsements of  progressive stalwarts Rep. Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez and Sens. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren.

In addition, Bowman has shown himself to be a formidable candidate and proficient grassroots organizer in a district that comprises parts of the Bronx and Westchester County.

Josh Kraushaar, the politics editor for National Journal, predicts a loss for Engel this evening.

“Engel probably loses not because Bowman wins the African-American vote in the Bronx and southern Westchester. He loses because affluent suburban Democrats in Scarsdale and Rye and wealthier parts of Westchester are wanting to support an African American who has a really compelling biography,” he told Jewish Insider

Engel is the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee and has been a consistent supporter of Israel in Congress. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Hillary Clinton have both stepped in to back Engel.

In New York’s 15th congressional district, the bluest one in the nation, an exceptionally crowded Democratic field has pinned two diametrically opposed personalities against each another to replace Rep. José Serrano, who is retiring.

The South Bronx District is looking at a competition between 12 candidates. One of them is Rubén Díaz Sr., a socially conservative Pentacostal minister, who is firmly opposed to gay marriage. Díaz has compared abortion to the Holocaust, and is considering voting for President Trump in November.

Another candidate is City Councilman Ritchie Torres, the young, Afro-Latino politician, who is the first openly gay elected official to serve the Bronx.

Progressive voters are predictably more aligned with Torres. However, their vote may be split in the 15th District, as the Democratic Socialists of American and Ocasio-Cortez have voiced support for candidate Samelys López, an activist.

In the Lower lower Hudson Valley, just outside of New York, millions of dollars have been spent to determine who will replace Democratic Rep. Nita Lowey, who has served the 17th congressional district for more than three decades.

Mondaire Jones, a Harvard educated former lawyer from a low-income background is vying for Loewy's seat. If he wins, he will be the first openly gay black man in Congress. If Torres also wins in the 15th, they will likely tie for this title. 

Jones has claimed the support of the party's left-most wing, but is up against six other candidates, including a former member of the Obama administration, and Adam Schleifer, a former federal prosecutor who has spent more than $4 million of his own money (his father was a pharmaceutical industry billionaire) on his campaign. 

Meanwhile, in Kentucky a close race is taking place for the opportunity to compete against Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. State Rep. Charles Booker is facing off against former Marine pilot Amy McGrath, in the Democratic primary.

McGrath has raised more than $41 million during her campaign and appeared to be the frontrunner for a lengthy stretch of time. Only in recent weeks, amid civil unrest and protests on the subject of racial equality, have the tides seemingly turned toward Booker, a Black man who presently serves in the Kentucky House of Representatives. 

Whichever candidate emerges victorious will face a difficult race against the Republican leader who is from a state that President Trump won by almost 30 points in 2016.

It is possible that results of Tuesday's elections will not immediately be known this evening, as higher than usual numbers of voters cast absentee ballots in light of the coronavirus pandemic.

In New York, absentee ballots are not fully tabulated until a week following the election.

 

 

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