New York Democrats face primary challenges from progressive candidates

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Two years after young progressive Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez shook the national Democratic Party by defeating former New York Rep. Joe Crowley in a primary, several longtime New York City area representatives are facing primary challenges — and being the establishment candidate may not be enough to see them through.

Reps. Eliot Engel, Jerry Nadler and Nita Lowey are three New York metropolitan area candidates facing primary challenges in 2020. Jamaal Bowman, a Bronx middle school principal and one of three candidates challenging the 16-term Engel, has been endorsed by Justice Democrats, the group that helped propel Ocasio-Cortez to power.

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Nadler, the powerful chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, is also facing three primary challengers, including former state official Lindsey Boylan, who raised over a quarter of a million dollars in the second quarter of 2019.

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Mondaire Jones, a 32-year-old who worked in the Obama Justice Department, is challenging Lowey, the chair of the House Appropriations Committee. Jones supports many ideas that have been championed by Ocasio-Cortez, like Medicare for All, a $15 minimum wage and the Green New Deal. Jones also supports the cancellation of student debt.

“We need a fighter in Washington and we have not had that, especially in recent years,” Jones told CBS News in an interview. Lowey, who is 82, has been in office for over 25 years. “I don’t think Nita has been fighting nearly enough for this district,” Jones continued, adding that he didn’t believe Lowey could relate to the struggles exhibited by many of the lower income residents in her district as one of the wealthier members of the House.

Jones said that he was “encouraged by the overwhelming show of support” for his campaign, which he launched last week.

“People like to see folks who have a story like mine,” Jones said, saying that he had never been in politics before, but wanted to come back to his community and advocate for it in Congress.

Ocasio-Cortez was not the only young, progressive primary candidate challenging a longtime establishment representative in 2018. Adem Bunkeddeko nearly unseated Rep. Yvette Clarke a few districts over in Brooklyn, and Suraj Patel launched a credible challenge to Manhattan and Queens Rep. Carolyn Maloney. It’s unclear if Bunkeddeko and Patel will run again in 2020, but their near-victories may also have inspired new candidates to consider primary challenges.

Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, the fourth highest ranking Democrat in the House, is also a potential target for a primary challenge. Politico reported last year that Ocasio-Cortez was eyeing Jeffries as a target for a primary challenge. Jeffries is considered to be a potential future speaker of the House — as was Crowley. New York Rep. Gregory Meeks may also face as a primary challenge.

The wave of insurgent progressive challengers in New York City crested with Tiffany Cabán, a young queer Latina woman who ran for Queens District Attorney against establishment candidate Melinda Katz, who had the support of Jeffries and Meeks. It is still unclear whether Cabán or Katz won the election, and recounts are underway.

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