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New York primary’s preliminary results show good news for Jamaal Bowman and a surging left

New York Democratic House candidate Jamaal Bowman greets supporters in Yonkers, N.Y., June 23. 2020. (Stephanie Keith/Getty Images)

WASHINGTON (JTA) — Left-wing candidates appeared to be surging in Democratic congressional primaries in New York, although results were preliminary into Wednesday as mail-in votes necessitated by the coronavirus pandemic were still being counted.

Jamaal Bowman, who challenged longtime incumbent Eliot Engel in the 16th District, covering parts of the Bronx and Westchester County, was leading him two-to-one with 33,000 votes counted after the voting on Tuesday.

That could represent just one-third of the total vote, however, and election prognosticators were reluctant to make calls in part because it’s hard to say which demographics are likelier to vote by mail. However, Dave Wasserman of the Cook Political Report called it on Wednesday for Bowman, and Bowman has declared victory.

The race is being closely watched by the pro-Israel community; Engel, who is Jewish and is the chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee, has long been close to the centrist and right-leaning pro-Israel movements. Bowman, backed by Bernie Sanders, has said he would condition aid to Israel on its behavior, but also backs its right to security and opposes the boycott Israel movement.

Other districts where the left was performing well included the 17th, neighboring Engel’s district, where Mondaire Jones appeared to be in the lead to replace Nita Lowey, the Jewish chairwoman of the House Appropriations Committee; and the 12th, covering parts of Manhattan, Brooklyn and Queens, where longtime Rep. Carolyn Maloney was facing an unexpectedly close race with Suraj Patel.

While those races showed how the degree to which the left has entrenched itself in state politics since Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez pulled off a surprise upset in the 14th, covering parts of the Bronx, in 2018, the ramifications regarding Israel were less clear. Jones and Patel have staked out conventionally centrist views on the issue.

In a 17th District debate last week organized by the Jewish Democratic Council of America, Jones said he opposed the Israeli government’s plans to annex parts of the West Bank, as many other Democrats do, but otherwise said his Israel policies were aligned with Lowey, a pro-Israel stalwart who is retiring.

Ocasio-Cortez was one of the New York races that media called, because she was leading by such a wide margin. Her most serious rival, Michelle Caruso-Cabrera, had tried to make Ocasio-Cortez’s left-leaning Israel positions an issue in the race. In a meeting with pro-Israel donors last week, Caruso faulted Ocasio-Cortez for not voting for a resolution condemning the boycott Israel movement.

Ritchie Torres, a progressive on most issues who is hawkish on Israel, was leading in the race to replace Jose Serrano in the 15th District, which is in the Bronx.

In other races of interest on Tuesday, Elaine Luria, the Jewish Virginia Democrat and former Navy commander who ran uncontested in her primary, looked set to face a rematch with Scott Taylor, the Republican former Navy SEAL she ousted in 2018 in the 5th District.

In Kentucky, Thomas Massie, a Republican who angered the establishment and Republican Jews for voting against bills that would promote Holocaust education and oppose Israel boycotts, handily bested a rival Todd McMurtry. GOP leaders and the Republican Jewish Coalition had backed McMurtry until it was revealed that he had posted racist statements on social media.