Bronx Educator Jamaal Bowman Makes a Final Push to Defeat his GOP-Backed Rival in Tuesday’s Primary

Bowman's opponent, longtime Congressman Eliot Engel, was recently heard on a hot mic confessing he “wouldn’t care” to speak out against police brutality if it weren't for the election. His primary residence is in Maryland.

Kiara Thomas Jun 22, 2020

Democratic candidate Jamaal Bowman raced across New York’s 16th congressional district Sunday with victory seemingly within reach in his primary run against incumbent Congressperson Eliot Engel.

The educator of 20 years has a 10-point advantage in the latest Data for Progress poll. Taken between June 11 and June 15, it also shows that 27 percent of voters are still unsure about whether they will cast their ballot for the 31-year incumbent or his new challenger in Tuesday’s primary.

‘For Eliot Engel, black lives are disposable. We’re just voters to him.’

“When you have somebody who served for over three decades, you have to ask yourself, whether those three decades have brought about a change that’s made your life better,” Bronx state Sen. Gustavo Rivera said at a campaign stop. “You see someone who has just in the last decade or so, as a principal, as an educator, actually made a direct impact on the lives of thousands of kids. He wants to bring that same level of energy and commitment to this entire district.” 

The day’s campaigning lasted more than six hours and stops included the 225th Street subway station in the Bronx, Co-op City, Mt. Vernon, New Rochelle, Mamaroneck and Rye Town Park. 

In addition to Sen. Rivera, Tiffany Cabán and Cynthia Nixon hit the pavement handing out fliers and encouraging the public to vote for Bowman, founding principal of Cornerstone Academy for Social Action Middle School, who has also been endorsed by Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. From the Bronx to Westchester, residents of the 16th district told The Indypendent they want a representative that will represent the people. 

“The district is pretty segregated by both class and race,” said Pelham resident, Caitlin Wong. “We need help. We need a representative who will fight for all parts of the district, and not just take money from these big PACs and not actually care about the people here.”

Young voters demanded a change to the unequal education system of their district. They believe that Bowman is well equipped to bring about the changes due to his firsthand experience as a teacher, guidance counselor, dean and principal. 

“I want to see an equal distribution of public education,” Isabel Hidalgo of New Rochelle said. “I went through the public education system. I want to make sure that all students of New Rochelle get the same resources no matter what neighborhood or district they live in.”

Co-op City residents said that Eliot was absent in the racially-diverse community of 44,000 people before his visit earlier this month and many questioned his commitment to the community due to his residence in Maryland. At a recent campaign event, he was heard on a hot mic saying that if it wasn’t for the primary, he “wouldn’t care” about speaking against police brutality.

For Eliot Engel, black lives do not matter,” political activist and Co-op City resident Kazembe Balagun said. “For Eliot Engel, black lives are disposable. We’re just voters to him.”

Balagun added that Engel’s alleged support for the Black Lives Matter movement was contradictory, given his unconditional support for Israel, despite its human rights abuses against Palestinians. The congressman chairs the House Foreign Affairs Committee and supported President Donald Trump’s inflammatory recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, a city Palestinians have long sought to make the center of a future state. 

“Eliot Engel had the nerve to be at a Black Lives Matter protest the other day while supporting the Israeli government and, given his position as Foreign Affairs Chief, giving millions and millions and millions of dollars to the Israeli government to hurt Palestinian children.”

Bowman will continue to campaign in the Bronx on Monday afternoon even as the district is saturated with ads backing Engel financed by Republican super PAC money. The winner of Tuesday’s primary is expected to go on to win in the November general election in what is a heavily Democratic district.

“We’ve been talking to people and building relationships all throughout the district from the very beginning,” Bowman said. “These relationships have been authentic. They’ve been rooted in love. We care about all of the same policies that people across the district care about as well. There’s a connection and this is a time for change. People are really excited about that so we like our chances.”

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