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Voters Rebuke Democratic Establishment in New York Primaries

Jamaal Bowman Date: 21 October 2015, 18:55 Source: Jamaal Bowman Author: John Foshay

Tonight we are proving that the people’s movement in NY isn’t an accident. It‘s a mandate.

While nationwide protests against police brutality continue, some voters had the chance to vote in Democratic primary elections in New York, Kentucky, and Virginia on Tuesday.

Some results out of New York show a committed block of the electorate is willing to go against the wishes of the Democratic establishment.

The biggest result of the night was the victory of middle school principal Jamaal Bowman over incumbent Eliot Engel who has been in the House of Representatives since 1989. Not only did Bowman win, he handily defeated the 16-term incumbent by a margin of 61% to 35%.

Engel was endorsed by the biggest names in New York Democratic politics. Hillary Clinton, Governor Andrew Cuomo, and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer all endorsed Engel’s campaign. The Congressional Black Caucus even endorsed Engel, a white moderate, over Bowman, a black progressive.

Justice Democrats endorsed Bowman, and he said he was inspired to run for public office after Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s victory in 2018.

Early polls had Engel winning big, but Bowman built a strong grassroots movement, and Jamaal Bowman’s focus on racial justice fit to the current moment. On the other hand, Engel was caught on a hot mic saying, “if I didn’t have a primary, I wouldn’t care” at a local news conference about the unrest after the murder of George Floyd.

“If successful, Jamaal will be the first candidate elected to Congress from this latest movement uprising for racial justice,” Waleed Shahid, communications director for Justice Democrats, told The Intercept.


Some viewed Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s 2018 primary victory over incumbent Joe Crowley as a fluke, and she received a well-funded challenge from a right-wing Democrat backed by Wall Street. But with all the results in, AOC has received 73% of the votes with challenger Michelle Caruso-Cabrera at only 20%.

Ocasio Cortez said, “tonight we are proving that the people’s movement in NY isn’t an accident. It‘s a mandate.”

Caruso-Cabrera accused Ocasio-Cortez of building a national profile over representing her district in an interview with CNN. Ocasio-Cortez was pictured delivering groceries to constituents during the height of the coronavirus crisis in New York, and Caruso-Cabrera’s criticism failed to stick.

Some have tipped Bowman as the ‘next AOC’, but Bowman said, “love my sister AOC, but I’m just gonna try to be Jamaal.”

Another AOC-endorsed candidate also won their primary, Mondaire Jones won with 45% of the vote in the 17th Congressional district to replace retiring Nita Lowey.

Kentucky and Virginia

Outside of New York, much attention has been drawn to the Kentucky Democratic primary between Amy McGrath and Charles Booker. The winner gets the chance to take on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell in November.

Amy McGrath accused McConnell in her campaign announcement speech of obstructing Trump’s agenda, and she has pitched herself as a centrist, at times right-wing Democrat. McGrath has built a national profile and massive fundraising capabilities as mainstream media picked her up as the Democrat to defeat McConnell.

Charles Booker has been a representative in the Kentucky House since 2018 and entered the Senate race late with a platform built on Medicare-For-All, a Green New Deal, and criminal justice reform.

McGrath has outraised Booker by $40 million to $788,000 according to Open Secrets, and McGrath had long been tipped for an easy victory. But a coronavirus-induced delay to the primary, a swathe of local endorsement from Booker, a grassroots campaign, and the state of racial politics in America boosted Booker heading into yesterday’s campaign.

Internal polling from both campaigns showed McGrath with a narrowing but healthy lead, and with 54% of votes counted McGrath held a 44.7% to 36.5% lead over Booker.

With many votes to be counted in Kentucky’s major cities and a long-wait for absentee ballots, the result may not be known for weeks.

There were also reports of long lines to vote after Louisville announced it would only have 1 polling station with polling stations reduced to 170 from the usual 3,700. Some voters missed out on the 6:00 PM deadline to vote due to limited parking and were recorded banging on the doors of the polling station to be allowed in. The Booker campaign won an injunction to extend voting until 6:30 PM.

Alec Pronk

Alec is a freelance writer with an interest in both geopolitics and American domestic issues. He finished his Master's degree with a critical focus on government counterterrorism policies.

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