DECISION 2020

Engel officially concedes congressional race to Bowman

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U.S. Rep. Eliot Engel says the "numbers are clear." It will be Jamaal Bowman representing the Democratic ticket for New York's 16th Congressional District in November, not him.

Engel — who has served in Congress since 1989 — officially conceded the primary race Friday, three weeks after voters cast ballots. The Associated Press called the election in favor of Bowman, a Bronx middle school principal seeking office for the first time, determining that it was mathematically impossible for Engel to overcome Bowman's lead with absentee ballots.

"Serving the people of the Bronx and Westchester in Congress has been the greatest privilege of my life, and what a remarkable 32 years it has been," Engel said in a statement to The Riverdale Press. "We made so much progress together, and faced so many challenges. Throughout those years, I have always worked as hard as humanly possible to represent my constituents as a progressive Democrat in Washington, and as an involved, informed and present public servant in New York.

"I take particular pride in always showing up, always being present, always listening, and always caring deeply about those whom it's been an honor to serve as their congressman."

Bowman, who declared victory on primary election night, released a statement Friday announcing that the "world has changed" and "Congress needs to change, too."

"From the very beginning we anchored our campaign in the fight for racial and economic justice," Bowman said. "We spoke the truth — about the police, about systemic racism, about inequality — and it resonated in every part of the district.

"We brought people together across race, across class, across religion, across gender, to fight for justice, to fight for inequality, and to fight to create a country that works for all of us. We didn't let them divide us."

Bowman's victory represents yet another Bronx congressional upset, following Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez's primary win over prospective House Speaker Joe Crowley in 2018. Bowman launched an aggressive campaign, further fueled by the coronavirus pandemic and racial tensions in recent months stemming from the police-involved killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

Bowman also got some help from Engel missteps, including a report in the middle of the pandemic revealing Engel was staying in Maryland rather than return to his home in the Bronx. And then when he did return, he was caught on a live mic pleading with Bronx borough president Ruben Diaz Jr., to allow him a chance to speak at an impromptu news conference on Fordham Road following riots there, saying, "If I didn't have a primary, I wouldn't care."

Engel didn't go down without a fight, and the final days of the primary ignited debate on a number of issues, including openly expressed fears by some community leaders — like Hebrew Institute of Riverdale leader Rabbi Avi Weiss — that Bowman's stance on Israel is far different than that of Engel.

"I honestly cannot tell you how touched I have been by all the kind words and love we received from every corner of the district," Engel said. "I want to thank my colleagues in government and their steadfast friendship over the years. We are so blessed here to have elected officials at every level of government who care deeply about helping the community, and are always willing to work together to improve conditions for our shared constituencies."

Bowman now is getting ready for the November election, but considering the district is so heavily Democratic, he's expected to have an easy victory leading him to Washington.

"I'm a Black man who was raised by a single mother in a housing project," Bowman said. "That story doesn't usually end in Congress. But today, that 11-year-old boy who was beaten by police is about to be your next representative."

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