June 23, 2020 / 10:42 AM / 20 days ago

Black challenger Bowman leads in bid to oust veteran congressman Engel in U.S. primaries

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Jamaal Bowman, a liberal Black middle-school principal, was ahead in early Democratic primary election results Tuesday in his bid to oust long-time U.S. Representative Eliot Engel from a congressional seat representing part of New York.

The New York Times declared progressive Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez the winner in her contest against a challenger in a neighboring New York district, in races that tested the strength of the Democratic Party’s left wing after moderate Joe Biden became the presumptive presidential nominee.

Tuesday’s nominating contests in New York, Kentucky and four other states featured progressives challenging older, establishment Democrats at a time of a national reckoning with racial injustice following the May 25 death of George Floyd, an unarmed Black man, while in Minneapolis police custody.

New York officials said results on Tuesday night did not include returns from absentee ballots, which were requested in record numbers during the coronavirus pandemic. Those ballots will not be completely counted until a week after the election. Hundreds of thousands of absentee ballots were also outstanding in Kentucky.

Bowman, 44, was leading Engel, the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, by 59.48% to 35.31%, the New York state elections board said, with 627 of 732 election precincts reporting. Whoever wins the Democratic nomination is likely to win the seat in November.

“Eliot Engel used to say he was a thorn in the side of (Republican President) Donald Trump,” Bowman told supporters. “But you know what Donald Trump is more afraid of than anything else? A Black man with power. That is what Donald Trump is afraid of,” Bowman said.

Progressive Senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren as well as Ocasio-Cortez endorsed Bowman, while Democratic Party stalwarts, such as former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, the party’s 2016 presidential nominee, rallied around Engel.

Ocasio-Cortez, the 30-year-old progressive firebrand better known as AOC, ran far ahead of former CNBC television anchor Michelle Caruso-Cabrera, 53, who was backed by the conservative-leaning U.S. Chamber of Commerce in a New York City district. [L1N2DW2HQ]

Ocasio-Cortez said her reported results of about 70 percent of the vote would be a “transformative” mandate. Caruso-Cabrera had 18.96% of the vote.

The progressive movement suffered setbacks at the national level earlier this year when former Vice President Joe Biden won the party’s race to take on Trump in November’s election, with dominant wins over Warren and Sanders in the state-by-state nominating contests.

SPIRITED KENTUCKY CONTEST

In Kentucky’s primaries, Amy McGrath, an ex-fighter pilot, was leading progressive Charles Booker, an African-American state legislator, in preliminary results from the race to become the Democratic candidate to face Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on Nov. 3, the New York Times said.

Like Engel, McGrath was backed by the party establishment. With 54% of precincts reporting, she had 44.7% of the vote, to 36.5% for Booker, the Times said. His candidacy had been elevated by the recent Black Lives Matter protests.

Because absentee ballots are still outstanding, final results will not be known until June 30, Kentucky officials said.

Slideshow (15 Images)

A Trump-endorsed candidate lost a Republican primary runoff in a congressional district in North Carolina. Madison Cawthorn beat Lynda Bennett, who was also endorsed by Trump’s chief of staff Mark Meadows, who formerly held the seat. Cawthorn, 24, will face Democrat Moe Davis in the November election.

In New York, the moderate-progressive competition was showcased in yet another primary race, where Representative Carolyn Maloney aimed to beat a challenger from her left. The 74-year-old Maloney got 40.29% of the vote reported Tuesday, slightly ahead of 36-year-old Suraj Patel, who received 38.43%.

Reporting by Richard Cowan; Additional reporting by John Whitesides; Editing by Christopher Cushing, Kim Coghill and Michael Perry

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