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Ocasio-Cortez Endorses Jamaal Bowman's Progressive Primary Challenge Against Longtime Rep. Eliot Engel

"This moment requires renewed and revitalized leadership across the country AND at the ballot box."

Former middle school principal Jamaal Bowman is running against 16-term Rep. Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.) in the primary election for New York's 16th congressional district. The election will take place June 23. (Photo: Bowman for Congress)

Praising Jamaal Bowman as a "profound community leader," Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez endorsed the former middle school principal's progressive challenge to longtime Democratic Rep. Eliot Engel on Wednesday evening, saying Bowman would help usher in a new era of people-focused leadership in Washington.

"This moment requires renewed and revitalized leadership across the country AND at the ballot box," said Ocasio-Cortez as tens of thousands of Americans marched for racial justice in cities across the country—facing militarized police forces at many protests.

The congresswoman shared a campaign video from Bowman in which he talked about the coronavirus pandemic's disproportionate effects on his community in New York's 16th congressional district, which encompasses the northern Bronx and lower Westchester County including the largely black and Latino city of Mt. Vernon. 

"The virus hit our cities the hardest," Bowman said in the video. "Thousands die every day, most of them black and Latino. People are losing their jobs and can't pay rent while Congress bails out corporations. We need leaders who understand what we're going through."

"Jamaal has dedicated the last decade of his life serving his community as a school principal and community servant," Ocasio-Cortez wrote. "Not only is Jamaal a profound community leader, but I believe he'd make a fantastic colleague in the United States House of Representatives."

Bowman is running on a platform similar to Ocasio-Cortez's when she won the primary for New York's 14th district against longtime Rep. Joe Crowley. Bowman's key campaign issues include fighting for Medicare for All, a Green New Deal, and a New Housing Deal which would invest in fair housing standards and in ending homelessness.

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Like Crowley was before 2018, Engel is one of the most powerful Democrats in Congress and counts pro-business interests among his top contributors. Engel is also a favored candidate of anti-Palestinian rights groups, while Bowman has called for "progressive foreign policy" and "honest conversations about our government's role in enabling the continued occupation of the Palestinian people."   

Bowman has criticized Engel in recent months for not returning to his home district during the coronavirus pandemic, saying in one ad that constituents he speaks to describe the incumbent as "absent." 

"Jamaal has dedicated the last decade of his life serving his community as a school principal and community servant. Not only is Jamaal a profound community leader, but I believe he’d make a fantastic colleague in the United States House of Representatives."
—Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.)

"This is the worst crisis since the Great Depression, and people don't know where their congressman is?" Bowman asked. 

As Common Dreams reported, Engel drew ire this week when he appeared in the district and asked organizers of a Black Lives Matter event to allow him to speak, saying, "If I didn't have a primary I wouldn't care." 

Engel has "taken us for granted," Bowman said last week. "After 31 years of the same, it's time for a change."

Ocasio-Cortez's endorsement came ahead of a slate of endorsements she's planning to unveil on Thursday. In recent weeks, Bowman has also earned endorsements from the Working Families Party, Justice Democrats, Food and Water Action, and a number of other progressive groups.  

"I am so grateful for this endorsement," said Bowman after Ocasio-Cortez's announcement. "We're building an amazing coalition to deliver change in NY-16."

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