Bowman declares win in hard-fought Democratic primary against incumbent Engel


Jamaal Bowman (left) and Rep. Eliot Engel.

Progressive Bronx principal Jamaal Bowman declared victory over 16-term incumbent Rep. Eliot Engel in the Democratic primary for the 16th Congressional District, after several competitive weeks of  campaigning and after Tuesday night bled into the hours of Wednesday morning without a result.

Midday on Wednesday, Bowman took to his official campaign Twitter to declare victory. “We won, but this is only the beginning,” he wrote, and then posted a link soliciting more donations.

Bowman’s declaration came after Dave Wasserman, U.S. House of Representative editor of the Cook Political Report, called the race in Bowman’s favor.

But Engel has yet to concede. A statement published on the Engel for Congress website early Wednesday morning said, “We know that the full results of the primary won’t be known for some time.” The statement said every vote should be counted, in order to ensure that every voter has their voice heard.

The Republicans have no candidate in the 16th district, while Patrick McManus is running as a Conservative.

If Bowman does upset Engel, he’ll be in line to replace a powerful 31-year incumbent. Engel wielded significant establishment support, had the backing of Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and was the chairman of the House Foreign Relations Committee. He’d been embroiled in a number of campaign controversies of late, including not having returned to the district during the Covid-19 pandemic and a “hot-mic” incident in which he was recorded saying, “If I didn’t have a primary, I wouldn’t care.”

Bowman’s election represents a win for the progressive movement nationwide, after he received backing from progressive leaders like Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Sen. Bernie Sanders. Bowman, a former middle school principal, was also endorsed by the Working Families Party, and will appear on that line in November.

State Sen. Alessandra Biaggi, whose grandfather Mario lost to Engel in a congressional race in 1988, introduced Bowman at a rally on Wednesday morning, referring to him as a “transformational leader.”

Later at the rally, Bowman said, “The results show that this district is demanding change. This is what this district has been waiting for. This is what this country has been waiting for. And we are all here now together. So I am excited.”

A story on other results declared Tuesday night or early Wednesday morning is here.