Two years ago, Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez was a little-known community organizer who, in an upset almost no one saw coming, defeated the 10-term Congressman Joe Cowley, then the fourth-ranking Democrat in the House, in the New York primary, later going on to win the seat for herself and becoming a national political star a result.
Will history repeat itself this Tuesday?
Among the most tightly contested races in this year’s New York primary, which will consist of both local elections and the all-but-officially-decided Democratic contest for president, is the Congressional seat held by Eliot Engel, the powerful chairman of Foreign Relations Committee. The 73-year-old Congressman, who was first elected in 1988, faces a tough primary race from Jamaal Bowman, an African-American former Bronx middle school principal whom Ocasio-Cortez endorsed earlier this month.
“This moment requires renewed and revitalized leadership across the country AND at the ballot box,” the congresswoman wrote in a series of tweets on June 3. “Jamaal has dedicated the last decade of his life serving his community as a school principal and community servant.” Added AOC: “Not only is Jamaal a profound community leader, but I believe he’d make a fantastic colleague in the United States House of Representatives.”
In his own tweet, Bowman thanked the first-term congresswoman for her support, saying, “Wow, I am so grateful for this endorsement,” adding: Ocasio-Cortez’s “commitment to working people of all backgrounds, her engaged presence, and her commitment to a more responsive Democratic Party have inspired me immensely.”
Bowman also is backed by Justice Democrats, the grassroots political action group that played a key role in AOC’s 2018 victory.
“Three years ago, when we challenged Crowley, everyone told us we were crazy, and it was impossible. Lots of people told us the same thing about Engel,” Waleed Shahid, Justice Democrats’ communications director, recently told Politico. “You never know how vulnerable someone is until you’re actually campaigning.”
In a surprise, The New York Times also endorsed Bowman, saying that it was one of the key state races where the “current representative has lost the fire to fight for his or her constituents at home and in Washington” and a generational change was needed. “In a district that needs new energy, Mr. Bowman will bring it,” the Times wrote.