Justice Democrats Announce Support for Third Engel Challenger

Veteran Democratic congressman blasted for pro-war, pro-Israel stances

Rep. Eliot Engel / Getty Images
June 20, 2019

Justice Democrats, the same progressive group that backed Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D., N.Y.) and Ilhan Omar (D., Minn.) in 2018, announced its support for a third challenger to Eliot Engel (D., N.Y.) in 2020.

Jamaal Bowman, a Bronx middle school principal, will join two other progressive candidates in attempting to oust the pro-Israel incumbent. Justice Democrats's support provides Bowman with a potential edge over his fellow challengers.

Bowman is the second 2020 candidate to gain the organization's endorsement. Justice Democrats recently announced its support for Jessica Cisneros, a progressive challenger to Rep. Henry Cuellar (D.) in Texas. The organization blasted Cuellar as "Trump's favorite Democrat" due to his stances on stricter immigration laws and opposition to public funding for abortions.

It was created in the wake of the 2016 presidential election by a group of veteran Bernie Sanders campaign staffers with the aim of fostering progressive candidates across the nation.

The organization's support also comes in the wake of Engel's strong rebuke of Rep. Omar's anti-Semitic comments about her Jewish colleagues' support of Israel. She was forced to apologize for her invocation of anti-Semitic stereotypes. A February New York Times article listed Engel as a potential target for Justice Democrats after his rebuke of Omar.

A December 2018 specifically called out Engel's pro-Israel foreign policy.

Last week, activist Andom Ghebreghiorgis announced his campaign to challenge Engel's seat. He joined Kenny Belvin as two young candidates looking to dethrone Engel by running to the longtime congressman's left on major progressive issues.

Ghebreghiorgis hit Engel for the congressman's support for the Iraq War and his support for President Trump's moving of the American embassy in Israel to Jerusalem. He also announced his support for progressive initiatives like Medicare-For-All and the Green New Deal.

Similarly, Bowman outlined his criticisms of Engel's vote for the Iraq War, and support for Wall Street deregulation, school privatization, and increased law enforcement in his announcement video. Bowman also stated his support for Medicare-For-All, universal child care, free public college, criminal justice reform, and the Green New Deal.

Over his 30-year career in the House, Engel has not faced significant electoral challenges, CNN reported. He won 74 percent of the vote in his 2018 primary against three progressive challengers, according to the New York Times, and 100 percent of the vote in the general election.