‘We just need a win’: The left unites to take down Eliot Engel
The progressives, desperate for victory after seeing the President's nomination slip through their fingers, have found a new reason to rally.
Across the country, they are passing on their grief, voluntary muscle, and small dollar donations to Jamaal Bowman, a left-wing candidate in New York who is trying to oust the decades-old incumbent Congressman Eliot Engel.
Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, all of whom have exercised caution in the past to support the key challengers of the incumbent Democrats, have approved Bowman. The Justice Democrats and the Working Families Party, two left-wing groups that took different paths during the presidential race, announced that they would come together to spend more than half a million dollars on Bowman's election. Former Sanders and Warren helpers have also positioned themselves publicly behind Bowman.
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The all-hands-on-deck strategy is an impressive sign of unity after the presidential campaign ended with deep cracks on the left - and it had a catalytic effect on Bowman's offer ahead of the June 23 primaries. But their efforts have also uncovered party rifts, causing democratic establishment powerhouses like Hillary Clinton, Nancy Pelosi and Jim Clyburn to put their support behind angels.
"What is the left sentence? We only need one win, ”said Andom Ghebreghiorgis, another progressive candidate who challenged Engel this year but recently retired and supported Bowman. “People invest a lot emotionally in this race because they see it as a voting race in which, for example, a Bernie's politics, which could not win at national level, can be achieved at least at congress level. "
This undated photo, which was provided by his campaign, shows Jamaal Bowman, a first-time candidate who helped found the Cornerstone Academy of Social Action in 2009 and who recommended Senator Bernie Sanders and Alexandria Ocasio in his race against the United States -Cortez has received Rep. Eliot Engel, a 16-year-old incumbent who represents parts of the Bronx and the Westchester County suburb. (Photo by Corey Torpie via AP)
The clash between heavyweights like Clinton and Sanders has made the race in the 16th district of New York one of the most viewed area codes in the cycle - and one of the most revealing.
When Bowman, a 44-year-old middle school principal, beats Engel, the 73-year-old chairman of the House's Foreign Affairs Committee, it is the second time in two years that a senior New York House Democrat has been kidnapped down in an elementary school . In 2018, Ocasio-Cortez Rep. Joe Crowley knocked out in a massive surprise. Should Engel hold on to his place, this will mean another bitter internal defeat for progressives.
"If it turns out that all of that super left-wing firepower is not enough and Bowman is neglected, that will be put on the list," said Jon Reinish, a New York-based democratic strategist. “In the past two years since Ocasio-Cortez, there have been many examples, such as the list of advocates for Our Revolution in 2018 or, most recently, the Henry Cuellar Challenge in Texas, where these challengers recur regardless of the energy of these groups , came up short. "
The protests after George Floyd's death and the corona virus, which disproportionately affected Black and Latin American Americans, have increased the urgency of progressives to oust angels. Bowman criticized Engel for voting for the 1994 Criminal Law, which has contributed to an increase in detention. Bowman supports the idea of defusing the police, while Engel said he refuses to cut their budgets completely, despite supporting some reallocation of resources.
"If you are someone who wants to turn the energy of the street into an elected office, Jamaal is one of many candidates you can support," said Waleed Shahid, communications director for judicial democrats. "Jamaal could be the first candidate to be elected to Congress from this movement."
Bowman also talked about his first experience of police brutality at the age of 11 on the campaign and was regularly present in protests against Black Lives Matter.
"Law enforcement murder was designed to serve and protect us. It robs you to the core and shakes your soul when something like this happens, ”Bowman said to POLITICO when he saw the video of Floyd's death. "I couldn't hold back and made a video directly over the camera and sobbed. I cried."
Bowman's campaign received a boost when Engel was caught on a hot microphone at an event in the midst of the riot and said, "I wouldn't care if I didn't have elementary school." At the time, Engel said, "In the context of re-election, I thought it was important that people know where I was. So I asked to speak."
Engel has touted his support for the Law on Justice in Policing and endorsement by black lawmakers such as civil rights icon John Lewis, New York MP Hakeem Jeffries, and the political arm of the Congressional Black Caucus. He also said that his tenure enabled him to bring the bacon to the area that was badly hit by the corona virus.
"Unlike our opponent, Congressman’s response to the pandemic was to find additional $ 6 billion in aid for New York hospitals, including many in the district," said Tom Watson, Engel’s communications director. "It was funded for community health centers and a struggle was made to keep Mount Vernon Hospital open."
Foreign policy also messed up the primaries when Bowman beat up Engel for voting for the Iraq war and "was fully funded by corporate and major donor PACs, many of which are weapons manufacturers". The Democratic majority for Israel, a Super PAC, has done so to broadcast advertisements in support of Engel, one of the best pro-Israeli votes in the House, and Bowman, who has criticized the Israeli government's treatment of Palestinians. According to Advertising Analytics, the group reserved an additional $ 250,000 in spots on Tuesday.
A Bowman victory would make him the fourth candidate supported by the anti-establishment judiciary to drop an incumbent Democrat since 2018. The organization, which developed a strategy after 2018 to hire only one candidate at a time, rather than supporting dozens of groups, supports Bowman after a public education activist nominated him for his recruitment program.
Shahid said the organization has evolved Bowman because of "his leadership skills in the district, his commitment to racist and economic justice throughout his career, and the fact that his opponent is particularly vulnerable." Angel's role in running the Democratic House was also a factor. "Someone with so much power should be someone who takes care of the needs of their district," said Shahid.
Two weeks after Sanders dropped out of the President's race, the Justice Democrats hosted an event with former Sanders and Warren adjutants who supported Bowman. The group had seen increased interest in the New York area code since Super Tuesday, when Joe Biden set up a delegate tour that Sanders couldn't overcome and prompted the Warren to exit.
There have been other attempts to promote progressive unity in the 16th district of Bronx and Westchester County. The Working Families Party helped broker Ghebreghiorgis out of the race and assist Bowman, with New York director Sochie Nnaemeka playing a key role, according to several people who are familiar with the movements. This helped prevent the split in the progressive vote. Engel, on the other hand, has two other moderate challengers, Sammy Ravelo and Chris Fink.
Consolidation is such an achievement for the left, known for fragmentation, that Ghebreghiorgis said activists from American Democratic Socialists and other progressives asked him about getting out and creating a unified progressive front behind Bowman: "How Can we make it scalable ... in every race where we see such a problem? "
Leftists across the country recognize that the Bowman candidacy is probably one of their last and best opportunities to eliminate a well-established democratic incumbent due to the realities of the primary election calendar.
"If you are a progressive who supports Bernie or Warren, Jamaal is really one of the last shots we have in a win this year," said Shahid. "He is the most important one who can achieve an AOC style win."
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