Cuomo, Schumer endorse embattled Rep. Engel in tough primary fight

Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Sen. Charles Schumer Wednesday both endorsed embattled Rep. Eliot Engel, who is facing the toughest Democratic primary challenge in his political career from Bronx middle school principal Jamaal Bowman.

The two powerful state Democratic Party elected leaders’ backing of Engel comes just two days after Hillary Clinton threw her support behind Engel, first elected in 1988 in the 16th congressional district that takes in neighborhoods in The Bronx and Westchester County.

“These are incredibly challenging times for our state and for this nation, but as we’ve done time and again, New York rises to meet that challenge head on,” Cuomo said.

“To do that, we need proven senior leadership now more than ever – people who are New York tough – and Eliot Engel embodies that….Eliot stands tall for New York.”

Cuomo said Engel, 73, is an “unwavering voice for progress and change.”

Andrew Cuomo
Andrew CuomoRichard Harbus

Schumer, the Senate Democratic minority leader, said: “I have a longtime, close friendship with Eliot Engel and have worked with him on many issues. From taking on Donald Trump, to standing up for women’s right to choose to expanding affordable health care, to fighting for civil and human rights, Eliot Engel has been a strong and effective fighter for the people of his district and all Americans — and I am proud to endorse him.”

Schumer also noted that Engel is chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee and advocated to protect American from terror attacks, fought for mass transit funding and “worked tirelessly with me” to deliver aid to New Yorkers whose neighborhoods were ravaged by Hurricane Sandy.

“Eliot Engel gets the job done,” Schumer said.

The Engel camp said it will cite the endorsements from Cuomo, Schumer and Clinton in media ads and mailings during the final days of the campaign.

The last day for in-person voting is primary day next Tuesday, June 23.

Wednesday is day five of nine days of early voting through Sunday. Many voters have already cast absentees ballot through the mail during the coronavirus pandemic – raising questions about the impact of late endorsements.

Bowman has won the backing of the Democratic Party’s left wing – neighboring Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren and the Democratic Socialists of America.

A Bronx source who supports Engel said Bowman has activists from the Democratic Socialists of America and other progressive groups on the ground in the district.

“They shipped them in. But I give them credit, they work really hard and all night. Hopefully Eliot has people hitting all the streets,” the Bronx Democrat said.

Bowman’s campaign said it has conducted a poll claiming he leads Engel 41 percent to 31 percent with 27 percent undecided. The survey by Data Progress shows Bowman, who is black, leading Engel 56 percent to ten percent among African-American voters.

But an Engel supporter said the congressman’s own internal poll has the incumbent eight points ahead of Bowman.

Engel has suffered from a few stumbles during the campaign. He stayed at his Maryland residence instead of tending to the district during the peak of the coronavirus pandemic. When he did appear at a press conference in The Bronx after a night of looting, he was caught on a hot mic requesting to speak saying, “If I didn’t have a primary, I wouldn’t care.”

Bowman is the former principal of the Bronx Cornerstone Academy for Social Action.

Bowman said the late endorsements of Engel from establishment Democrats show the incumbent is in trouble.

“They’re scared, because they’re seeing the same things we’re seeing. They don’t like having their power threatened — that’s why they’re throwing everything they’ve got at me,” Bowman said.

“But I’m running because I believe that elected officials should be looking out for their communities, not looking out for each other — and the voters seem to agree.”


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