High school educator and progressive Democrat Jamaal Bowman was declared the winner of the race in the Bronx and Westchester County's 16th Congressional District, unseating longtime Rep. Eliot Engel, according to projections from the AP made three weeks after the congressional primary.
In a statement entitled "It's Over: Bowman Declared Winner of NY-16," Bowman said he never expected his story — that of a Black man raised by a single mother in a housing project and beaten by police at age 11 — would include being "your next Representative."
“From the very beginning, we anchored our campaign in the fight for racial and economic justice. We spoke the truth — about the police, about systemic racism, about inequality — and it resonated in every part of the district," Bowman said.
Bowman's victory assures he'll likely win the November general election given the heavily Democratic district that spans northern portions of the Bronx and up towards lower Westchester County. It also makes his the first Black member of Congress representative for that district.
The news also adds even greater weight to the progressive wing of the Democratic party in New York, and adds fresh perspective to the New York congressional delegation. Engel had represented the 16th Congressional District for 30 years, joining a list a long-serving members of Congress that also include Rep. Jose Serrano of the South Bronx. The race to replace him has yet to be called.
With the pandemic forcing the city and state board of election offices to rely heavily on absentee ballots, declaring a winner proved problematic on primary night. Early estimates showed Bowman way ahead of Engel, himself a former school teacher.
Bowman received the backing of Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the Working Families Party, and local Bronx and Westchester County State Senator Alessandra Biaggi, whose grandfather lost to Engel when he first ran for Congress in 1988.
In a statement, Engel conceded the race, acknowledging he will not appear on the November ballot, adding that "the numbers are clear."
"Serving the people of the Bronx and Westchester in Congress has been the greatest privilege of my life, and what a remarkable 32 years it has been," said Engel. "I wish Mr. Bowman well as he begins this new chapter in his life. Here in New York's 16th District, where I have lived since I was a young boy in Eastchester Gardens, we desperately need Washington's resources at this critical time, and we must continue to fight for them."
Bowman has long pegged Engel as a legislator who's been out of touch with the district he represents. During the pandemic, Engel was residing outside the district.
Bowman's victory lap included a message to Congress that it must change, and he's ready to do it.
“If we can take on entrenched power and wealthy interests here in Westchester and the Bronx, then we can do it all across this country," said Bowman. “I’m ready to get to work. I cannot wait to get to Washington and cause problems for the people maintaining the status quo.”
The article has been updated to include the statement from Engel.