New polling from New York's 16th congressional district shows progressuve primary challenger Jamaal Bowman 10 points ahead of 16-term incumbent Rep. Eliot Engel, a centrist Democrat, as the former middle school principal's insurgent campaign urged supporters to keep the pressure on to achieve victory in next week's primary.
The progressive think tank Data for Progress conducted the survey between June 11 and 15, polling 525 likely Democratic voters in the 16th district, which lies in the Northern Bronx and lower Westchester County.
Forty-one percent of voters reported they were planning to support Bowman, while 31% said they would support Engel. Just over a quarter of respondents said they were still undecided about the election, in which the last day to vote is June 23.
Bowman celebrated the poll results while urging supporters to continue fundraising and get-out-the-vote efforts to counter the $600,000 Engel is spending on attack ads against his progressive challenger. Critics of Engel have recently highlighted $100,000 in funding that a Republican super PAC funneled to a group backing him.
This latest poll shows we have the momentum. But we need all your help to reach undecided voters over the next SIX DAYS until Election Day.
We're facing over a million dollars in negative ads from dark money groups and we need your support.
— Jamaal Bowman (@JamaalBowmanNY) June 17, 2020
Organizer Nikhil Goyal urged supporters to "fight like we're down ten points."
TIME TO WIN. https://t.co/a4K0QgcNUq
— Nikhil Goyal (@nikhilgoya_l) June 17, 2020
The poll showed Bowman—who supports Medicare for All, a Green New Deal, and a Reconstruction Agenda to shift funding for police departments and prisons to social services—with significant support from black voters in the 16th district, with 56% saying they would support him versus just 10% who backed Engel. A majority of undecided black voters also said they were leaning towards supporting Bowman.
The poll was conducted a week after Engel was heard on a hot mic at a Black Lives Matter event telling organizers that he wanted to speak to the crowd, but that if he "didn't have a primary, [he] wouldn't care."
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Thirty-seven percent of Latino voters also supported Bowman, versus 27% who backed Engel, and Bowman leads among voters both under and over the age of 45.
The poll results come amid a number of high-profile endorsements for Bowman from Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) and Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.)—who announced her endorsement Wednesday—and the New York Times editorial board, which wrote last week, "In a district that needs new energy, Mr. Bowman will bring it."
Meanwhile, after Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) declined to offer his support to Engel last week, contradicting the congressman's claim on his website that he had the Democratic leader's endorsement, a number of establishment figures rushed to Engel's aid in recent days.
Hillary Clinton gave her first endorsement of the House primary season to Engel on Tuesday, joining House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), House Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-S.C.), and caucus chair Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.).
"Feels like the Democratic Party establishment is working harder to defeat Jamaal Bowman than deliver police reform and economic relief for Americans still suffering from the pandemic," Waleed Shahid of Justice Democrats tweeted on Wednesday.
The support for Engel among other powerful Democrats, most of whom reject the bold progressive initiatives pushed by Bowman and other progressives, is a sign of "desperation" among the establishment, Ryan Cooper wrote at The Week on Wednesday:
The Democratic establishment views its primary task as managing and controlling its voters rather than trying to do what they want. They have convinced themselves that the country is unshakably conservative, and therefore the best they can do is hang on to power and occasionally pass milquetoast reforms... That's how you get incumbents like Engel who can barely be bothered even to pretend they cater to the needs of their districts.
The prospect of the slumbering Democratic base being awakened by candidates like Bowman, and demanding the party fight for progressive policies just as hard as Republicans fight for conservative ones, would blow up this comfortable arrangement. That strikes fear into the establishment. If Engel goes down, a whole slew of elderly Democratic bigwigs, previously comfortable in their deep-blue seats telling their voters what they can't have, might be next... That is why all these party grandees are trying to save his skin.
With powerful Democrats as well as GOP interests lining up to push Engel over the finish line, attorney and former New York gubernatorial candidate Zephyr Teachout urged voters to see the latest poll results not as a reason to assume Bowman's victory is secure, but as motivation to continue working to elect the progressive challenger.
Jamaal is up!!!!!
You know what to do. Work harder. Six days until voting ends. https://t.co/ndWEL2LkjE
— Zephyr Teachout (@ZephyrTeachout) June 17, 2020
"Jamaal is up!" she wrote. "You know what to do. Work harder."