Hillary Clinton joined other prominent Democrats by endorsed New York Rep. Eliot Engel Monday after he was caught on tape saying he “wouldn’t care” to speak at a George Floyd rally if he wasn’t in a primary election.
“I have worked with Elliot Engel as first lady, as senator from New York, and as Secretary of State. Every step of the way, his number-one priority has always remained the same: delivering for his constituents,” 2016 Democratic presidential nominee and former Secretary of State Clinton said in a statement to The New York Times.
Engel, who has served in the House of Representatives since 1989, will face candidate Jamaal Bowman, a public school principal who has become the most formidable challenger Engel has faced in his 31-year career, in the June 23 primary election.
Democrats Rep. Maxine Waters and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi have also endorsed Engel, indicating the rift that has emerged between establishment and progressive Democrats over their preferred candidate.
Engel’s campaign was recently rattled by a comment that he made on June 2 while at a rally for Floyd, who died in Minneapolis police custody May 25 after and officer knelt on his neck for nearly 9 minutes, video of the incident showed.
In video and audio of the rally, Engel asked Bronx borough president Ruben Diaz Jr. for speaking time, and can be heard saying “if I didn’t have a primary, I wouldn’t care.”
After Engel’s comment, several progressive Democrats jumped announced endorsements for Bowman.
A day after Engel’s comment, Democratic New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez endorsed Bowman in a series of tweets, saying that “Jamaal has dedicated the last decade of his life serving his community as a school principal and community servant.”
“Not only is Jamaal a profound community leader, but I believe he’d make a fantastic colleague in the United States House of Representatives.”
Ocasio-Cortez led her own primary upset in 2018, when she unseated incumbent Joseph Crowley to win the Democratic nomination for New York’s 14th Congressional District .
On June 9, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders offered his own endorsement to Bowman, saying that “he is someone we can trust to be a powerful advocate for a progressive agenda in Congress,” he wrote in a post on Medium announcing his endorsement.
Other Democrats have voiced support for Bowman recently. California Rep. Katie Porter and Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, two prominent figures on the progressive left.
“The people of NY-16 deserve an accountable, compassionate leader who will make their voices heard,” Sen. Warren said in a tweet referring to Bowman.
In addition to the prominent politicians, The New York Times officially threw its support behind Bowman last week, saying that “in a district that needs new energy, Mr. Bowman will bring it.”
Despite Bowman’s wave of momentum heading into the election, Engel has retained the support of many influential establishment Democrats.
On June 14, House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn and House Intelligence Committee Chair Adam Schiff officially endorsed Engel, praising his distinguished tenure and decades-long service to his district.
“Let me be blunt: we need leaders in Congress with proven records of standing up for civil and human rights,” Clyburn said. His endorsement is especially notable, given his position as the highest-ranking person of color in Congress.
House Democratic Caucus Chairman Hakeem Jeffries, also a New York representative, endorsed Engel on June 13.