2020 Election

Justice Dem Gets Big Money Boost Against Top Democrat Eliot Engel

Jamaal Bowman receives more than half a million from Justice Democrats

Jamaal Bowman / YouTube Screenshot

The Justice Democrats PAC dropped nearly a million dollars in support of Jamaal Bowman, a primary challenger to top Democratic representative Eliot Engel (N.Y.).

Bowman is receiving major support from well-endowed liberal sources ahead of the June 23 primary in New York's 16th Congressional District. The Justice Democrats PAC, which previously supported Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez's (N.Y.) successful 2018 primary challenge against another top congressional Democrat, spent $920,000 on media buys against Engel. Bowman also has the endorsement of the Working Families Party, which received significant donations this cycle from a handful of Democratic megadonors, including George Soros.

Left-wing groups may be looking to Bowman's race to provide a morale boost in what has so far been a disappointing election cycle for progressives. Sens. Bernie Sanders (I., Vt.) and Elizabeth Warren (D., Mass.) were bested by former vice president Joe Biden in the presidential race, while Morgan Harper, who was backed by Justice Democrats, was trounced in an Ohio primary against incumbent representative Joyce Beatty. Bowman, however, is better positioned to win against Engel. A recent poll had the challenger up by 10 points.

"We just need a win," Andom Ghebreghiorgis, another progressive candidate in the district who dropped out of the race and endorsed Bowman, told Politico. "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."

Bowman, a Bronx middle school principal, was recruited by Justice Democrats in hopes he can join other left-wing politicians in Washington to push a progressive policy agenda. His platform includes support for the Green New Deal and Medicare for All. In November, Bowman cited "white male domestic terrorism" as the "biggest issue in our country."

In addition to the far-left PAC's six-figure media buys, Bowman's campaign has worked consistently with Justice Democrats since the candidate entered the race. Justice Democrats PAC's filings reveal the group was reimbursed $32,600 from Bowman's campaign for "operating expenditures"—which can include office space, travel, equipment, and food—since last July.

The Working Families Party, a small political party based in New York, endorsed Bowman in February and has campaigned for him since. New York state records show that it received a sizable portion of its cash from just three big-money donors. Working Families received  $117,300 directly from Cari Tuna—the wife of Facebook cofounder Dustin Moskovitz—and another $117,300 from the Cari Ellen Tuna Revocable Trust. Susan Pritzker, another liberal megadonor, provided $105,000 to the party. George Soros, who has poured tens of millions into 2020 efforts, cut the party a $45,000 check. The three donors have accounted for nearly a quarter of all of the funds raised by the Working Families Party this cycle.

Bowman has landed endorsements from several high-profile progressives, including Sanders, Warren, and Ocasio-Cortez. Meanwhile, Democratic Party leaders—including Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (N.Y), House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (Calif.), Hillary Clinton, and a host of congressional Democrats—have voiced support for Engel, who chairs the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

"As chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee, Eliot has protected our democracy from foreign attacks, and as a local leader Eliot improved mass transit and worked tirelessly with me after Hurricane Sandy," Schumer said in a Wednesday statement in support of the vulnerable Democrat. "Eliot Engel gets the job done."

Justice Democrats and the Working Families Party did not respond to requests for comments on their efforts to defeat Engel.

Update 9:10 a.m.: This post has been updated to reflect new FEC filings from late Thursday night.