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Weeks after New York primary conducted largely by absentee ballot, results still trickling out

House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Eliot Engel, D-N.Y., talks to reporters as before he meets with fellow House Democrats at the Capitol in Washington, Tuesday, Dec. 17, 2019.

(The Center Square) – Weeks after the votes were cast in New York’s primary election, one of the most notable congressional races finally has reached a conclusion as longtime Democratic Rep. Eliot Engel has conceded defeat.

The primary was conducted June 23, but few results were available on election night because of the vast number of absentee ballots cast in an effort to stave off coronavirus infections. Engel, the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, finally was announced Friday morning as having been defeated by challenger Jamaal Bowman, a middle school principal.

Engel sparked outrage early in the campaign when he was caught on a microphone saying that he was only interested in speaking at a community event in the Bronx because he was up for re-election. That provided an opening for Bowman, a newcomer to politics, to paint his opponent as out of touch with the district.

“The numbers are clear, and I will not be the Democratic nominee for the 16th Congressional District seat in the fall election,” Engel said in a statement Friday. “Serving the people of the Bronx and Westchester in Congress has been the greatest privilege of my life, and what a remarkable 32 years it has been.”

Bowman campaigned as a progressive candidate, pushing for Medicare For All and the Green New Deal and picking up endorsements from U.S. Sens. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., and Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., and U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y.

“I’m a Black man who was raised by a single mother in a housing project,” Bowman said in a statement Friday on Twitter. “That story doesn’t usually end in Congress. But today, that 11-year-old boy who was beaten by police is about to be your next Representative.”

The district has never come close to electing a Republican in Engel’s 32 years in office, and Bowman is considered a near-lock to win the seat in the general election in November. The only other candidate on the ballot will be Patrick McManus, the Conservative Party nominee.

Other Democratic primary races still have yet to be decided. The race between incumbent Rep. Carolyn Maloney and challenger Suraj Patel in the 12th District is far from a conclusion; The New York Times reported Friday that only 800 of about 65,000 absentee ballots have been counted. And in the 15th District, New York City Councilman Ritchie Torres leads a number of other candidates in the race to succeed Rep. José Serrano, who is retiring.

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