NEW YORK - Freshman U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez won her Democratic primary Tuesday, but election night ended with uncertainty over the outcomes of several other New York congressional races featuring other young insurgents.
The coronavirus pandemic that moved campaigning from the streets to computer screens also prompted officials to allow New Yorkers to vote by mail, and the process of opening and counting those absentee ballots won't begin until at least July 1.
Ocasio-Cortez, a democratic socialist who upset powerful Democratic incumbent Joe Crowley in the 2018 primary, easily prevailed this year over opponents including former CNBC broadcaster Michelle Caruso-Cabrera.
In a video posted to Twitter, she said her victory came despite Wall Street opposition. “No amount of money can buy a movement," she said.
Meanwhile, in one congressional district north, U.S. Rep. Eliot Engel, the Democratic chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, waited to see if he would withstand a challenge from Jamaal Bowman, a former middle school principal endorsed by Ocasio-Cortez and Sen. Bernie Sanders.
As of 1 a.m., the race in the Bronx and Westchester County remained too early to call. Bowman pulled to an early lead, with around 61% of the counted vote. Engel was in second with about 36%. Mail in votes, though, were expected to account for more than half the vote.
While not declaring victory, Bowman expressed confidence to a gathering of supporters late Tuesday.
“I am fired up. I cannot wait to get to Congress and cause problems for the people in there who have been maintaining a status quo that is literally killing our children," he said.
Engel said in a statement, “With so many absentee ballots outstanding and many still coming in, we know that the full results in the primary won't be known for some time.” He added that he is “proud of his progressive record.”
In western New York, Republican state Sen. Chris Jacobs swept a doubleheader to win a House seat formerly held by fellow Republican U.S. Rep. Chris Collins, who resigned just before pleading guilty to insider trading last fall.
Jacobs won a special election to serve out the remainder of Collins’ term. He also won a three-way primary to be the Republican candidate in November’s general election. In the special election, Jacobs beat Democrat Nate McMurray, a former town supervisor. The two will face off again in November.
Several of the most closely-watched congressional contests remained too early to call.
In a Democratic primary in New York City, U.S. Rep. Yvette Clarke had a early, but substantial lead over Adem Bunkeddeko, a Harvard Business School graduate who also ran against her in 2018.
U.S. Rep. Carolyn Maloney, another Democrat, was neck and neck with challenger Suraj Patel, who ran against her in the 2018 primary. Patel criticized Maloney for supporting a failed deal to use government tax breaks to help Amazon build a secondary headquarters in Queens. The district includes parts of Manhattan, Brooklyn and Queens.
Crowded primaries were also undecided for House seats opening up due to the retirements of Democrats Jose Serrano in the Bronx and Nita Lowey in the suburbs north of New York City.
The top candidates for Serrano's seat included City Council member Ruben Diaz Sr., a social conservative who opposes abortion rights and LGBT rights. But one of his foes, City Council member Ritchie Torres, a gay man who is backed by several LGBT organizations, was ahead when vote tabulation stopped.
Leading candidates for Lowey's seat include Mondaire Jones, an attorney endorsed by Ocasio-Cortez, Sanders and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who was a few thousand votes ahead of former prosecutor and pharmaceutical heir Adam Schleifer and state Sen. David Carlucci.
House incumbents who won Democratic primaries in New York City included Gregory Meeks, Grace Meng, Nydia Velazquez and Adriano Espaillat.
Several of the districts in New York City and its suburbs are so overwhelmingly Democratic that the winner of the party’s primary is almost certain to win election in November, while districts in some other parts of the state are more competitive.
The retirement of Republican Rep. Peter King leaves his Long Island seat open as well, and Democrats believe they have a good chance of winning the seat in November. State Assembly members Andrew Garbarino and Mike LiPetri were running in the Republican primary, while school guidance counselor Jackie Gordon faced activist Patricia Maher in the Democratic primary.