Good news, sorta. Looks like we’ll have AOC to kick around for another two years. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez buried her Democratic primary challenger Michelle Caruso-Cabrera, a former CNBC reporter who tried to unseat the frosh Representative after her “fluke” election in 2018. After winning 72.6% of the vote in NY-14, Ocasio-Cortez wants her props for a “mandate”:
Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez said her reported results of about 70% of the vote, which put her far ahead of challenger Michelle Caruso-Cabrera in the Democratic primary election, would be a ‘transformative’ mandate https://t.co/RNnk2PyljQ pic.twitter.com/m2HqKjIu2H
— Reuters (@Reuters) June 24, 2020
When I won in 2018, many dismissed our victory as a “fluke.”
Our win was treated as an aberration, or bc my opponent “didn’t try.”
So from the start, tonight’s race was important to me.
Tonight we are proving that the people’s movement in NY isn’t an accident. It‘s a mandate.
— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@AOC) June 24, 2020
A mandate for … what, exactly? Perhaps AOC doesn’t realize this, but a win in a congressional district — even a big one like she won last night — isn’t a “mandate” that extends beyond the district’s borders. In fact, this was a primary, so technically this is a “mandate” among Democrats, not the general electorate.
However, there is evidence that the progressive mandate among Democrats does extend beyond NY-14. The race in NY-16 hasn’t yet been called, but incumbent Rep. Eliot Engel is trailing his progressive challenger Jamaal Bowman by almost 27 points, with 95% of precincts reporting. Engel serves as House Foreign Affairs Committee chair, and would be the latest member of House Democratic leadership to fall to a primary challenge:
Bowman, a former middle school principal who’s seen a late surge in the polls and fundraising, garnered 61 percent of the vote early Wednesday morning with 85 percent of precincts reporting. Engel, a 16-term incumbent, trailed in second with 36 percent of the vote.
A win by Bowman would provide progressives a huge political scalp as a number of insurgent candidates have launched challenges against establishment Democrats or longtime incumbents. Their bids have received a boost amid the nationwide protests against racial injustice roiling the country after the death of George Floyd while in police custody in Minneapolis.
Bowman would also become the second New York progressive to defeat a senior lawmaker after Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) stunned the political world by defeating former Rep. Joseph Crowley in a 2018 primary.
However, the count so far does not account for a surge in absentee ballots seen in New York as the coronavirus pandemic has led states to boost their mailed vote options. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) ordered mail-in ballot applications to be sent to every registered voter in the state for the primary, which was delayed from late April.
That’s the only reason Decision Desk HQ and other outlets haven’t called NY-16, but that’s a gap that likely can’t be made up with absentee ballots. The vote lead is just under 12,000, which is a lot of ground to make up in a House primary no matter how popular vote-by-mail turns out to be. Engel is almost certainly toast, the latest victim of the progressive surge.
He might not be the last one this cycle in New York, either. Carolyn Maloney is clinging to a narrow lead in NY-12 over former Team Obama campaigner Suraj Patel, 41.7/40.6. Maloney, who chairs the House Oversight Committee, may extend that lead in the absentee balloting, but Patel’s experience as a campaigner might provide him with a GOTV edge in that area.
If progressives manage to push out three big-time establishment figures in New York’s primaries, then AOC might be correct in declaring a “mandate,” at least within her own party. But what happens when that “mandate” gets tested in a general election — and not around New York City, but in suburbs and exurbs across the US? It seems at least arguable that it will end up like all purity campaigns — with a solid grip on both the moral high ground and the minority.