Watch NY1’s full Democratic primary debate for the 16th Congressional District above.



What You Need To Know

  • Rep. Eliot Engel facing one of the biggest political fights against a Bernie Sanders-backed progressive.

  • Jamaal Bowman noted institutional racial disparities in debate over being black in America.

  • Engel, a veteran congressman, repeatedly cited ties to black lawmakers.

It was an intense and heated debate over police reform and the black experience.

Rep. Eliot Engel, whom represents parts of the Bronx and Westchester, and Jamaal Bowman, a progressive who wants to deny him a 17th term, faced off in a NY1 debate.

Bowman took issue with Engel’s use of a quote by congressman and civil rights veteran John Lewis, who said Americans came on different ships but now are in the same boat.

“African Americans came here on slave ships. We were shackled and chained," Bowman said, continuing, “We’re not in the same boat. People of African descent are more likely to live in poverty, they’re more likely to be killed by the police.”

Engel responded: “I was quoting John Lewis, who back in the ’60s in Alabama on that Pettus Bridge, where he was beaten senseless, almost dead. He’s the one who said that. And I respect him and he’s supporting me for reelection.”

Engel repeatedly made note of his alliances with black lawmakers.

He said he doesn’t back the defunding of police, taking the phrase to mean a full stripping of their budgets.

“What I do support is taking some of those monies and using them for community programs, using them for other methods of policing," Engel said.

Bowman, a former middle school principal, said he wants police departments defunded and those resources reallocated to job creation.

A third candidate, tax attorney Chris Fink, sought to make his case amid the din.

“I’m going to let these two fight all night long, but let me answer the question that neither of them answered," he said at one point.

Fink went on to cite contract tracing as key in the COVID-19 recovery and tout his plan to create jobs to supplement the CARES Act.

Engel and Bowman also clashed bitterly on financial backers of their respective bids as well as the congressman’s physical presence in his district.

“He lied to the constituents in this district by saying he would be here giving out supplies when he was not," Bowman said, later adding: “How can you feel the pain and the suffering that people are going through during the pandemic if you are not here?”

“The only one misleading the voters now is you. This was a food giveaway by Sen. Bailey, Jamaal Bailey, who, by the way, is a state senator who’s supporting me, and by Assemblyman Benedetto, who is supporting me," Engel said. "I couldn’t make it, so the two of them gave it. And I wasn’t there. My name was there. I was a sponsor.”

Also on the ballot for the June 23 primary is retired NYPD lieutenant Sammy Ravelo.


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