Through a Politico prism, the grassroots effort to elect Jamaal Bowman to Congress is a twisted power grab by “the left.” Holly Otterbein wrote that “Desperate for victory after watching the presidential nomination slip through their fingers, progressives have found a new cause to rally around. Across the country, they’re channeling their grief, volunteer muscle and small-dollar donations into Jamaal Bowman, a left-wing candidate in New York trying to oust decades-long incumbent Congressman Eliot Engel… [T]heir efforts have also exposed party fissures, spurring Democratic establishment powerhouses such as Hillary Clinton, Nancy Pelosi and Jim Clyburn to throw their support behind Engel,” while Bowman has been endorsed by Bernie, Elizabeth Warren, AOC, Ayanna Pressley and virtually every credible progressive political group in America.
Otterbein quoted a local ex-candidate, Andom Ghebreghiorgis, who ran, briefly as a progressive, got no traction, dropped out, and endorsed Bowman: “What is that left phrase? We just need a win. People are investing a lot emotionally in this race because they see it as a down-ballot race where the policies of a Bernie, for example, which weren’t able to achieve victory on a national level, can at least be achieved on a congressional level.”
Otterbein: “The clash between heavyweights like Clinton and Sanders has made New York’s 16th District race one of the most-watched primaries of the cycle– and one of the most telling.”
I think Blue America was one of the first national groups to endorse Jamaal and we did it nearly a year ago, long before any of the big name political leaders jumped into the race– Jamaal Bowman– The Bronx Could Wind Up With The Most Great Members Of Congress Anywhere In America. Although we noted that “Eliot Engel is a New Dem in a district that is far more progressive than he is,” the endorsement post is all about Jamaal, with no further mentions of Engel.
Engel isn’t the same kind of corrupt villain that Joe Crowley is, nor the same kind of villain that Dan Lipinski is. The best critique of him is that he’s absent and no longer a part of his consistency and that his interests are more conjoined with those of Benjamin Netanyahu than with the struggling working families of Westchester and the Bronx. But the reason for Jamaal’s traction– irregardless of the typical Beltway-centric version– is all about Jamaal. Engel is rated a gentleman’s “C” by progressive punch– not an “F” or even a “D.” But there is no reason that NY-16 shouldn’t be represented by someone with an “A,” which is exactly what Bowman’s platform adds up to. New York has 7 members of Congress (out of 21 Democrats) with “A” scores– AOC, of course, and members like Jerry Nadler, Adriano Espaillat, Yvette Clarke, Nydia Velazquez, José Serrano, even Hakeem Jeffries! New Yorkers should expect no less… especially not in districts, like NY-16 with a PVI of D+24 and where Trump attracted just 22.5% of the vote.
Engel has a huge establishment push working for him now– and a bipartisan one at that. Republicans know they can’t ever win in NY-16 so they’re supporting the less progressive contender, Eliot Engel. On Tuesday, Ryan Grim and Akela Lacy reported how Republican money, through a GOP SuperPAC, Americans for Tomorrow’s Future, is flowing into the effort to keep Engel in Congress. The blatantly Republican Americans for Tomorrow’s Future PAC has been funneling money into the Engels campaign through the anti-Bernie/anti-progressive Democratic establishment PAC, Democratic Majority for Israel (an arm of AIPAC). Republicans maxing out to Trump and also putting money through these operations into defeating Bowman. “Engel,” wrote Grim and Lacy, “is on the receiving end of nearly $1 million of outside big money and counting, including funding from two other dark-money groups that can’t be traced but who only support anti-progressive candidates.
Despite Engel’s big financial advantage– as of June 3, he raised $1,997,944 to Bowman’s $965,857– the only public polling in the race show’s Bowman leading with double digits. Asked this week if they would vote for Bowman or Engel voters picked Bowman over Engel 41-31 with 27% undecided. When the undecided voters were asked who they are leaning towards, Bowman had an even bigger advantage: 40-18%.
East of Scarsdale, north of Rye, north and west of Ardsley and north of Hastings-on-Hudson, you can walk out of Engel’s district and into NY-17, where Nita Lowey is retiring and a hot, crowded primary is underway in another sure-thing blue district (D+7), where Trump got 38.4% of the vote in 2016. Seven Democrats are in contention– including one extreme right Blue Dog-type, state Senator David Carlucci, a bunch of rich people (one of whom, Adam Schleifer, a big PhRMA guy, has self-funded $4 million of his own into the race) and one viable progressive, Mondaire Jones. A new poll of likely primary voters by PPP, released yesterday, shows Mondaire leading significantly:
• Mondaire Jones- 25%
• Adam Schleifer- 14%
• Evelyn Farkas- 14%
• David Carlucci- 11%
• David Buchwald- 8%
• Asha Castleberry-Hernandez- 3%
• Allison Fine-2%
Jamaal Bowman and Mondaire Jones– not to mention Charles Booker, the Senate candidate in Kentucky– are the candidates who are getting the most attention in the progressive blogosphere right now and we are feeling increasingly confident about all three. But there’s another candidate we’re extremely excited about in New York too, Shan Chowdhury, the Democratic Socialist taking on the city’s most corrupt politician, Greg Meeks. Meeks has been trying to keep the primary under the radar– and that could be his downfall.
Shan is young, progressive and is being drastically outspent. If he wins, he’s going to be Congress’ most shake-it-up member. Despite the finance disparity and with just six days left, things have changed for Shan’s race. His campaign has worked, for 14 months, to expand the size of the electorate in New York’s 5th Congressional district. His campaign has sent over 750,000 texts, made over 100,000 phone calls and is running advertising on almost 10 different platforms in just the last month alone (print and digital).
Chowdhury’s aggressive strategy to expand the electorate is a problem for Meeks. In NY-05, voter turnout is abysmal. Despite there being over half a million registered voters, Congressional primary turnout in 2016 was only 8,635. That is barely 1% turnout. Meeks has never faced a real primary challenge and as a result his machine has been able to solidify a small base that turns out. That is why expanding the electorate has been an effective strategy for Shan. I just got word that, based upon internal numbers and absentee ballots tracked, Shaniyat is very likely going to upset Rep. Meeks and win next Tuesday.
Despite being widely overlooked, due to a lack of institutional support, his chances of winning are higher than almost any other campaign in New York City. According to the BOE, only 15,000 absentee ballots have been requested in the district. That is lower than any other district in the City. Taking into account Shan’s campaign’s incredible outreach– having already sent over a million texts— and the work his team has done expanding the electorate, this means they are going into election day with better odds of winning then even the incumbent! If their internal numbers reinforce the reality that on June 23rd, they are going to shock the political world– even louder than Bowman, Jones and Booker will.
Even being so close to election day, contributions are vital to Chowdhury’s ability to pull this off. They are going to need a tremendous amount of money in order to properly execute their get out the vote strategy. They plan to distribute 100,000 pieces of literature, flyers and posters between today and election day. They are also going to need the resources to send a broadcast election reminder text to everyone in the district (400,000 people). Let me be clear, contributions today will allow them to secure this victory and change– perhaps forever– what is thought possible in electoral politics.
The Blue America 2020 congressional thermometer on the right is how you can contribute to Shan Chowdhury, Jamaal Bowman and Mondaire Jones in one fell swoop. And, by the way, those who wonder how last minute money gets to the campaigns on time– Act Blue wires the contributions daily.