Ghebreghiorgis begins primary challenge of Rep. Engel with attack on use of corporate PAC funds

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Ghebreghiorgis begins primary challenge of Rep. Engel with attack on use of corporate PAC funds

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Mount Vernon Democrat Andom Ghebreghiorgis, one of two progressive candidates launching a primary challenge of Rep. Eliot Engel in 2020, criticized the 30-year incumbent congressman for accepting corporate PAC money and declared his own campaign will be “people-funded.”

Jamaal Bowman has also announced a primary run.

Ghebreghiorgis and Bowman are both challenging Engel from the left and have said that they will fight for progressive values. Bowman is the founding principal of the Cornerstone Academy for Social Action (CASA), a middle school located in the Bronx. Justice Democrats, a PAC that helped Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez win her seat in 2018, recently endorsed Bowman for the 2020 election in the 16th district, which includes Pelham. 

Ghebreghiorgis criticized Congressman Engel for taking money from corporate PACs. After 30 years, Ghebreghiorgis said that it’s time for a change.

“Over the course of his 30 years, (Engel) has received millions of dollars in contributions from real estate, the military/defense lobby, the healthcare industry and Wall Street,” said Ghebreghiorgis when announcing his campaign. “How can we have a true democratic system when powerful corporations stand to profit from the decisions of elected officials whose campaigns they fund? The military lobby, which is writing Engel’s checks come election time, is going to be the one benefiting.”

Ghebreghiorgis said he has lived in the district his whole life. He most recently taught special education at the Equity Project Charter School in Washington Heights. Ghebreghiorgis’ career has influenced his understanding of the residents of the district.

“Middle school is a very turbulent time, but that’s even more so when you’re dealing with real issues outside the classroom,” he said in an interview. “Issues of housing, hunger and healthcare. Issues of family members not being able to hold a job or being in and out of prison. Issues of deportation or immigration.”

Seeing how these problems affect the children he interacted with changed how Ghebreghiorgis connected with his community. He had to work with students personally in order to help them grow. He compared this to working with constituents. “(By) working in the Bronx, I realized how much relationships matter.”

“Unabashedly advocating for progressive change is something that because of my experience, I think I’m uniquely positioned to do in the district,” said Ghebreghiorgis.

He said that this is why he is refusing all lobbying and corporate PAC money. “The best interest of the American people is not necessarily the best interest of the corporations,” he said. Ghebreghiorgis said that this will help him connect the office to the community he represents. “I think sometimes being out of the political system and actually being in the underserved communities gives you the power to see the world for how it is.”

In terms of policy, Ghebreghiorgis wants to stop fighting “forever wars,” and instead focus on development at home. “You can’t separate foreign policy from domestic policy,” he said. “You can’t talk about being able to radically invest in public schools when we spend so much of our money going to war.”

Ghebreghiorgis wants to reinvest in education and American communities. He wants fully funded public education from pre-K through college and views affordable housing as a human right. He also supports the Green New Deal, Medicare For All and a Federal Jobs Guarantee with fair wages. More information on issues will be progressively released on his website in the next month at AndomforNY.com.

When asked for a comment about the challengers, the Engel campaign said, “The beauty of our American democracy is that anyone can run for office in free, open and fair elections. That’s something I treasure and believe should be protected, which is why I’m fighting to hold Russia accountable for their meddling in our electoral process. Every two years, I bring my progressive record to the people of the 16th district and ask them for their support. As always, I will continue to do all I can as a member of Congress to earn their vote.”