Pro-Israel New York Democrat Faces Two Leftist Primary Challengers

Engel will look to avoid Crowley's fate

Rep. Eliot Engel / Getty Images
• June 12, 2019 4:45 pm


Eliot Engel (D., NY), a staunchly pro-Israel Democrat, will face two primary challenges from his left next June in the form of younger, more progressive candidates.

Andom Ghebreghiorgis, an activist, announced his campaign to contest the New York representative's seat. Ghebreghiorgis joins Kenny Belvin, who announced his campaign in February, in challenging Engel.

Engel has served for 31 years in the House of Representatives as a representative of the 16th district, which covers the northern Bronx and southern area of Westchester County in the Empire State. He is currently the chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs.

Both Belvin and Ghebreghiorgis will attempt to run to Engel's left and hit the veteran politician on progressive issues like his support for Israel, climate change, and the student debt crisis. They both are far younger than Engel, as Belvin is 25 and Ghebreghiorgis is 33. They have both also pledged to reject corporate PAC money.

A February article from the New York Times listed Ghebreghiorgis as a potential challenger for Engel. At the time, Ghebreghiorgis said New Yorkers want politicians who reflect their progressive priorities.

Jewish Insider reported that Ghebreghiorgis ripped Engel's pro-Israel foreign policy in his campaign launch announcement. Specifically, Ghebreghiorgis pointed to Engel's support for President Trump's decision to move the American embassy to Jerusalem and Israel's occupation of the Golan Heights.

He also criticized Engel's "hawkish record" as one more at home in the Republican Party, citing the congressman's support of the Iraq War.

Ghebreghiorgis did not limit his criticism of Engel to the congressman's foreign policy, however. He also accused the congressman of being bound by millions of dollars in contributions from military lobbyists and Wall Street, among other special interest groups, according to the Washington Post. For domestic issues, Ghebreghiorgis said he supports Medicare-for-All and the Green New Deal.

Belvin also endorsed the Green New Deal and student debt cancellation, saying that America needs bold solutions to its problems in an interview with the Yonkers Tribune.

He also pledged not to accept what he described as "dirty" corporate PAC money.

Engel made headlines recently with his strong rebuke of Rep. Ilhan Omar's (D., Minn.) anti-Semitic comments. He lambasted Omar for "invoking a vile anti-Semitic slur" when she accused pro-Israel politicians of having a dual-loyalty.

He will aim to avoid the same fate as former representative Joe Crowley, who was famously ousted by a similarly young and progressive Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D., N.Y.) last year. Ghebreghiorgis and Belvin is intending to follow Ocasio-Cortez's example by capitalizing on their fresh appeal and appealing to New York voters' more progressive values.

Published under: Eliot Engel, New York