There are primary elections for both major parties today in New York’s Hudson Valley. Three Democrats are taking on longtime Congressman Eliot Engel while, next door, seven Democrats are vying for the chance to succeed Congresswoman Nita Lowey, who is not seeking re-election.
Of the three Democratic candidates looking to unseat Congressman Engel in New York’s 16th District, analysts say progressive Jamaal Bowman poses the biggest threat. They are calling the race a possible AOC-type election, referring to Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s upset of New York City Democratic Congressman Joe Crowley in 2018. The two have been calling each out for any misstep, and touting their endorsements. In a NY1 virtual debate earlier in June, Engel, who has been in Congress for 16 terms, talked about what he would do in two more years that he hasn’t done already.
“I think finish the job. I’m now the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, and we are doing a lot of investigations on President Trump and his administration,” Engel says. “The stories have been all over the paper about the inspector general being fired. They have people sort of trying to find out if things are on the up-and-up, and what Trump does is the minute they start making headway, he fires them. We’re going after him. We’re going after him. I’m leading the charge, and this thing is going to blow up in the next few months. You’re going to hear a lot of things because we’re hot on their tail.”
“So it’s time for change in the district, and it’s time for change in the country,” Bowman says.
In an interview with WAMC, Bowman, an educator, espoused one of his messages.
“We have to deal with racial and economic inequality very directly and very urgently,” Bowman says. “The persistence of poverty and the economic oppression of the masses of people in this country is creating a Democracy that doesn’t work for everyone.”
Engel has been endorsed by Hillary Clinton and New York Governor Andrew Cuomo. Bowman touts endorsements from Massachusetts U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren; Vermont U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders; and the New York Times. Regarding the latter, Engel said he would not seek the New York Times endorsement because of an op-ed the paper published by Republican Senator Tom Cotton. Municipal power expert Chris Fink also is on the ballot.
“When people approached me about running, they felt like, while Eliot Engel is a good congressman and a good human being, that his focus, especially the last decade, has really been on international issues,” Fink says. “And, as chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee, that makes sense, but people felt like our district and the local issues, specifically the infrastructure in our district, was neglected.”
Retired NYPD lieutenant Sammy Ravelo is also running, and says he’s a traditional Democrat.
“But it is time that the district moves forward with somebody new,” Ravelo says. “Congressman Engel has been there for a long time. He has done good work, but now the district needs to turn over.”
In the neighboring 17th District, 16-term Congresswoman Nita Lowey’s decision not to run has left a coveted open seat. New York state Assemblyman David Buchwald; state Senator David Carlucci; Asha Castleberry Hernandez; Evelyn Farkas; Allison Fine; Mondaire Jones; and Adam Schleifer are battling it out for the district that includes all of Rockland County and part of Westchester. Jacob Rubashkin is an analyst and reporter with Inside Elections.
“What happens in New York-17 is what happens when you get an open seat in a solidly Democratic district,” Rubashkin says. “You see a glut of incredibly highly qualified candidates who recognize that this is their best option to get to Congress because these open seats just don’t come along very often.”
A poll in early June from Data for Progress shows Carlucci ahead with 15 percent; Farkas and Schleifer tied with 13 percent; Jones with 12 percent; and 38 percent unsure. A poll out last week from Public Policy Polling has Jones leading with 25 percent; Schleifer and Farkas tied with 14 percent; Carlucci with 11 percent; and 24 percent not sure.
In the 19th District, first-term Democratic Congressman Antonio Delgado is running for re-election in a district that Inside Elections and Congressional Quarterly Roll Call have changed from “tossup” in 2018 to “tilt Democratic.” Delgado awaits the winner of Tuesday’s Republican primary between Poughkeepsie fashion designer Ola Hawatmeh and attorney Kyle Van De Water of Millbrook, who is also a veteran. 2018 Green Party candidate Steve Greenfield of New Paltz will again be on the ticket in November.
And there is a Democratic primary pitting Westchester County District Attorney Anthony Scarpino against former Assistant U.S. Attorney in the Southern District of New York Mimi Rocah. Though Scarpino won the support of the county Democratic Committee, Rocah is considered a threat.