Evincing the growing turmoil within the Democratic Party, a top-ranking member of the Democrat establishment is at risk of being removed from Congress by a far-left primary challenger.
According to The Hill, Rep. Eliot Engel (D-NY), chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, is currently facing an unexpectedly strong primary challenge from a former middle school principal named Jamaal Bowman.
A challenge from the far-left
According to The Hill, Bowman, now an education activist, has experienced a surge in support in recent weeks after another one of Engel’s primary challengers dropped out of the race and endorsed Bowman.
The move coincided with public endorsements of Engel’s progressive challenger from the likes of Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), The Hill noted.
Of course, it’s not all that surprising that AOC has thrown her support behind the education activist: Bowman is in much the same position that Ocasio-Cortez was in during the 2018 primary season, when she challenged powerful establishment incumbent Rep. Joe Crowley (D) from the left flank — and defeated him.
Whatever her reasoning, the increased support for Bowman has materialized into a surge of donations to his campaign, including, according to The Hill, a gain of around $200,000 in just two days last week.
“I wouldn’t care”
Despite the fundraising jump for Bowman, Eliot still maintains something of an advantage, as he reportedly has more than $1 million banked for his campaign, as well as the backing of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), among other prominent establishment Democrat leaders, The Hill reported.
But that may not be enough for the 16-term congressman, who has recently taken flak from those in his home district — which includes the north Bronx and parts of Westchester — for remaining in Washington, D.C., during the coronavirus pandemic, rather than returning home to check on his constituents.
Making matters worse, when he finally did show up in NYC following recent anti-police protests that rocked the city, Engel was caught on a hot mic during a news conference asking for a chance to speak and, according to The Hill, was overheard saying: “If I didn’t have a primary, I wouldn’t care.”
Bowman and others who back him have seized on that remark as merely the latest example of Engel’s lack of empathy for his constituents. Further, the longtime congressman has been accused of no longer being on the same page issues-wise with those who live in the district.
All eyes on NYC
Of course, Engel’s campaign seems to have dismissed the challenge from Bowman, and it has been similarly dismissive of the support Bowman has received from backers like Sanders and Ocasio-Cortez, apparently confident that the Democrat establishment will propel Engel to another term. But The Hill’s report makes clear that may not be a safe bet for the congressman.
Still, one thing is for certain: all eyes will be on New York come June 23.