Bowman’s victory is an extraordinary rebuke to the Democratic Party establishment both in New York and on Capitol Hill — and reason for new optimism among progressives in the wake of Sens. Bernie Sanders’ and Elizabeth Warren’s failed presidential primary bids.
The final call of the race comes more than three weeks after the June 23 primary and a drawn-out process in which the state has struggled to deliver timely results amid an influx of absentee ballots. New York dramatically expanded its mail-in voting option in response to the coronavirus, but the long delay in counting will add to national Democrats’ anxiety over the potential for similar delays, especially in presidential swing states like Pennsylvania, in the event of a close race in November.
Bowman, a 44-year-old political newcomer, follows in the footsteps of Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez,
The first came when it was revealed that Engel had spent the worst of New York City’s coronavirus crisis at his home in Maryland, hours away from one of the hardest hit districts in the country. Engel, in an interview with CNN, reasoned that he was following doctor’s orders, saying his house outside Washington is larger than his apartment in the city, and so better accommodated to quarantining with his wife.
But the more damaging episode came in early June,
Bowman’s victory is another blow for the traditional pro-Israel lobby, which has close ties to Engel and invested heavily in trying to keep him in Congress.
The Democratic Majority for Israel led the way, ramping up its outlays over the last few weeks before polls closed — its total having exceeded $1.5 million. That included an ad targeting Bowman over an old tax debt, which was roundly criticized before Engel’s campaign put out a statement asking that DMFI, which also spent against Sanders during the presidential primary, “consider taking it down.”
Other groups, with murky names like Perise Practical and Avacy Initiatives, also spent hundreds of thousands of dollars backing Engel.
Bowman got a boost of his own, though to a lesser degree, from the late infusion of outside money into the race. The Justice Democrats and the Working Families Party outside group ended up spending about $1.3 million on his behalf.
Justice Democrats narrowed their sights in 2020, focusing on fewer races and backing a more select group of insurgent candidates. Before the New York primaries, one other of the group’s endorsed candidates had succeeded in defeating an incumbent, Rep. Dan Lipinski of Illinois, who opposes abortion rights.
“It’s extremely rare for an incumbent Democrat in Congress to be unseated by a more progressive candidate and for all the coverage the tea party received, and their influence in the Republican party, they were only able to unseat three House Republicans, maximum, in any given cycle,” Justice Democrats communications director Waleed Shahid told CNN before primary day. “So if Jamaal wins it will show that there is energy still for progressive leadership.”