Two powerful House Democrats from New York are in danger of losing their primaries

Key Points
  • Challenger Jamaal Bowman is leading House Foreign Affairs Committee Chair Rep. Eliot Engel by a wide margin in the primary for New York's 16th District. 
  • House Oversight Committee Chair Rep. Carolyn Maloney holds a narrow lead over challenger Suraj Patel in New York's 12th District. 
  • Progressive Mondaire Jones is leading the race to replace retiring Rep. Nita Lowey, as he and New York City Council member Ritchie Torres have a chance to become the first openly gay Black members of Congress. 
U.S. Rep. Eliot Engel (D-NY) votes at a school near his home on June 23, 2020 in the Riverdale neighborhood of the Bronx, New York.
Spencer Platt | Getty Images

After a strong night for New York City-area progressives in the state's primary election, two powerful House Democrats, Reps. Eliot Engel and Carolyn Maloney, looked in danger of losing their seats.

As mail-in ballot results trickled in, middle school principal Jamaal Bowman led Engel by a staggering margin of more than 25 percentage points Wednesday morning.

Bowman, a Black man, leveraged discontent about the House Foreign Affairs Committee chair's absence from the district during the coronavirus pandemic, as well as backlash against the congressman saying he "wouldn't care" about speaking at an event on police brutality if he did not face a primary. Engel represents the 16th District in parts of the Bronx and Westchester County. 

"We celebrate this movement," Bowman, who ran on a sweeping liberal platform and earned endorsements from Sen. Bernie Sanders and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, said in a de facto victory speech Tuesday night. "A movement designed to push back against a system that's literally killing us. It's killing Black and Brown bodies disproportionately, but it's killing all of us."

Jamaal Bowman speaks at a watch party as he takes an early lead in the democratic primary for New York's 16th Congressional District in Yonkers, New York, U.S., June 23, 2020.
Lucas Jackson | Reuters

In the nearby 12th District which includes parts of Manhattan, Brooklyn and Queens, Maloney narrowly leads attorney Suraj Patel. The House Oversight Committee chair held an edge of less than 2 percentage points over Patel on Wednesday morning. The congresswoman easily defeated him in a 2018 challenge. 

Maloney has been in Congress for more than 25 years, while Engel has served over 30 years.

Meanwhile, north of New York City, a progressive supported by the likes of Sanders and Ocasio-Cortez holds a wide lead in the race to replacing retiring Democratic Rep. Nita Lowey. Mondaire Jones, who like Bowman supports "Medicare for All" and a Green New Deal, held a more than 20 percentage point advantage on Wednesday morning in the suburban 17th District. 

In the Bronx, New York City Council member Ritchie Torres leads a field aiming to replace retiring Democratic Rep. Jose Serrano. Democrats hoped to avoid nominating for the 15th District seat City Council member Ruben Diaz Sr., who has a history of homophobic remarks and opposes abortion rights.

If Jones and Torres win the seats, they will become the first openly gay Black members of Congress. 

U.S. Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) arrives before the town hall meeting in the Queens borough of New York City, New York, U.S., April 27, 2019.
REUTERS/Jeenah Moon/File Photo

Also in New York City, Ocasio-Cortez easily held off a primary challenge from her right. In the Bronx and Queens 14th District, the prominent democratic socialist holds a lead of more than 50 percentage points over former CNBC anchor Michelle Caruso-Cabrera, who had backing from a range of investing and business titans. 

Full results for Tuesday's primary elections likely will not come for days as election officials count mail-in ballots filled out to reduce risk during the pandemic. Races could always change as more of the vote gets reported. 

Even so, the initial signs point to triumphs for progressives in a city that has cried out this year against justice, economic and health-care systems that disproportionately harm people of color. 

"Tonight we are proving that the people's movement in NY isn't an accident," Ocasio-Cortez tweeted Tuesday. "It's a mandate."

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