Politics

30-Year Democratic Congressman Gets Progressive Challenger Backed By Justice Democrats

YouTube screenshot/Jamaal Bowman

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Evie Fordham Politics and Health Care Reporter

Justice Democrats is backing a progressive political rookie who launched his campaign to unseat a 30-year Democratic New York congressman this week.

Democratic New York Rep. Eliot Engel, 72, has multiple challengers including Jamaal Bowman, a 43-year-old public middle school founder and principal, reported The Huffington Post Tuesday. Justice Democrats, the group that propelled Ocasio-Cortez to victory in 2018, recruited Bowman.

Bowman’s announcement comes less than a week after Justice Democrats’ first candidate of the 2020 cycle, Jessica Cisneros, announced she is challenging Democratic Texas Rep. Henry Cuellar from the left. (RELATED: Joe Biden Talks About Fundraising Numbers, And The Quarter’s Not Even Over)

But Engel is much closer to the progressive mold than Cuellar. He is a cosponsor of Medicare-for-all and spoke out against the Iraq War in 2007, although he did vote for it in 2002.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi speaks at a press conference at the U.S. Capitol July 23, 2018 in Washington, DC. Pelosi, Rep. Adam Schiff (L) and Rep. Eliot Engel (R) have introduced a resolution condemning U.S. President Donald Trump's statements during the recent summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi speaks at a press conference at the U.S. Capitol July 23, 2018 in Washington, DC. Pelosi, Rep. Adam Schiff (L) and Rep. Eliot Engel (R) have introduced a resolution condemning U.S. President Donald Trump’s statements during the recent summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

Ranking member of the House Foreign Relations Committee, Rep. Representative Eliot Engel, who is a leading candidate to take over the panel, poses for a portrait in his office on Capitol Hill November 15, 2018 in Washington, DC. (BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)

Ranking member of the House Foreign Relations Committee, Rep. Representative Eliot Engel, who is a leading candidate to take over the panel, poses for a portrait in his office on Capitol Hill November 15, 2018 in Washington, DC. (BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)

The congressman, who is Jewish, also criticized Democratic Minnesota Rep. Ilhan Omar after she slammed “the political influence in this country that says it is okay to push for allegiance to a foreign country,” referring to Israel, in March. However, Engel did not support removing Omar from the House Foreign Affairs Committee, which he chairs.

Bowman speaks out against Engel’s record in his launch video posted Monday. He also addressed his background as the child of a single mother who grew up in public housing in the Bronx.

“It’s time to build a new America ― a new America that taps into its unlimited potential, a new America that leverages the brilliance of children and people from diverse backgrounds,” Bowman said in the video according to HuffPo. “That’s the America I want to be a part of, the America I want for my children and grandchildren.”

Bowman already has some name recognition in his district after he spoke out against state standardized tests in 2016, despite his school’s stellar test score improvement record, reported HuffPo. He is the principal of the Cornerstone Academy for Social Action (CASA).

Progressives are already getting fired up about Bowman.

“An education warrior, looks promising!” failed New York gubernatorial candidate Cynthia Nixon wrote on Twitter Tuesday.

“I’m supporting Jamaal Bowman for Congress in New York’s 16th Congressional District. He’s a lifelong educator and school principal in the Bronx. His experience, his values, and his policy ideas are what we need,” activist Shaun King wrote on Twitter Tuesday.

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