Less than 17 percent of potential votes in his district have been counted — with a large number of absentee ballots yet to be tallied — but Jamaal Bowman is ready to put a fork in a long campaign that he says finishes with him overthrowing House Foreign Affairs Committee chair Eliot Engel in the 16th Congressional District.
"From the very beginning, we anchored our campaign in the fight for racial and economic justice," Bowman said in a victory statement released just before lunchtime on Wednesday. "We spoke the truth — about the police, about systemic racism, about inequality — and it resonated in every part of the district.
"Many doubted that we could overcome the power and money of a 31-year incumbent. But the results show that the people of NY-16 aren't just ready for change, they're demanding it."
Live votes from Tuesday, as well as early voting in the previous weeks, has handed Bowman a 25-point lead over Engel, with more than 11,000 votes separating them. Usually that would be more than enough to call the race. But because Gov. Andrew Cuomo opened up absentee balloting to virtually anyone who wanted it, many primary races from Tuesday are still awaiting a winner because it's unclear how much absentee ballots can change the result.
Bowman, however, is following the recommendation of Dave Wasserman, the U.S. House editor for the non-partisan Cook Political Report, who tweeted late Wednesday morning, "I've seen enough. Jamaal Bowman has defeated 16-term Rep. Eliot Engel in the NY-16 primary."
After polls closed Tuesday night, Engel's campaign released a statement suggesting they were going to wait until all the absentee ballots were counted before settling on who won the primary, and what is expected to be a direct shot to Washington.
"With so many absentee ballots outstanding, and many still coming in, we know that the full results of the primary won't be known for some time," the Engel campaign said in its Tuesday night statement. "Congressman Engel is proud of his progressive record, and looks forward to the final tallies from the full Democratic electorate in the Bronx and Westchester.
"The bottom line for Congressman Engel is that every voter deserves to have their voice heard in our electoral system, and every primary ballot must be counted to ensure that happens. That includes the absentee ballots that only reached voters in the last day — they must be counted in every race."
That didn't change much Wednesday afternoon following Bowman's declaration of victory. As far as Engel is concerned, it's still wait and see.
"The Engle campaign will continue to closely monitor the collection and counting of absentee ballots, and recount of the voting machines over the next week," according to a new statemenet. "There are many thousands of absentee ballots that will need to be counted, and that count won't begin for another six days. Any declarative statement on the outcome of this race right now is premature, and undermines the democratic process."
While all the Bronx voting districts reported live ballot results, a small percentage of Westchester County precincts still have yet to check in, according to the state elections board. Even then, none of those numbers reflect absentee ballots, which have not even been opened yet. Bowman dominated Engel in the Bronx by nearly 30 points, while the congressman was closer to Bowman in Westchester, behind by just 23 points.
The winner of the primary still has to make it through the general election in November, but considering the 16th Congressional District is solidly Democratic, there should be no issues there.
"The world has changed," Bowman said in his statement. "Congress needs to change, too. But if we can take on an entrenched power and wealthy interests here in Westchester and the Bronx, then we can do it all across the country."