Jamaal Bowman, a liberal Black middle-school principal, was ahead in early Democratic primary election results Tuesday in his bid to oust long-time U.S. Representative Eliot Engel from a congressional seat representing part of New York, Reuters reports.
The New York Times declared progressive Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez the winner in her contest against a challenger in a neighboring New York district, in races that tested the strength of the Democratic Party’s left wing after moderate Joe Biden became the presumptive presidential nominee.
Tuesday’s nominating contests in New York, Kentucky and four other states featured progressives challenging older, establishment Democrats at a time of a national reckoning with racial injustice following the May 25 death of George Floyd, an unarmed Black man, while in Minneapolis police custody.
New York officials said results on Tuesday night did not include returns from absentee ballots, which were requested in record numbers during the coronavirus pandemic. Those ballots will not be completely counted until a week after the election. Hundreds of thousands of absentee ballots were also outstanding in Kentucky.
Bowman, 44, was leading Engel, the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, by 59.48% to 35.31%, the New York state elections board said, with 627 of 732 election precincts reporting. Whoever wins the Democratic nomination is likely to win the seat in November.
“Eliot Engel used to say he was a thorn in the side of (Republican President) Donald Trump,” Bowman told supporters. “But you know what Donald Trump is more afraid of than anything else? A Black man with power. That is what Donald Trump is afraid of.”
Progressive Senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren as well as Ocasio-Cortez endorsed Bowman, while Democratic Party stalwarts, such as former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, the party’s 2016 presidential nominee, rallied around Engel.
Ocasio-Cortez, the 30-year-old progressive firebrand better known as AOC, ran far ahead of former CNBC television anchor Michelle Caruso-Cabrera, 53, who was backed by the conservative-leaning U.S. Chamber of Commerce in a New York City district.
Ocasio-Cortez said her reported results of about 70 percent of the vote would be a “transformative” mandate. Caruso-Cabrera had 18.96% of the vote.
The progressive movement suffered setbacks at the national level earlier this year when former Vice President Joe Biden won the party’s race to take on Trump in November’s election, with dominant wins over Warren and Sanders in the state-by-state nominating contests.