Elizabeth Warren endorses Dem Rep. Engel's primary rival, as contest heats up

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Sen. Elizabeth Warren is wading into a fierce primary battle in New York between longtime Democratic Rep. Eliot Engel and his progressive primary challenger -- middle school principal Jamaal Bowman.

“The people of NY-16 deserve an accountable, compassionate leader who will make their voices heard. I know that @JamaalBowmanNY will be a champion for working people in Washington and I’m honored to stand shoulder to shoulder with him in this fight,” Warren tweeted on Tuesday, as she endorsed Bowman.

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The backing of the populist senator from Massachusetts and former White House hopeful who ended her bid for the Democratic presidential nomination in March comes a week after Bowman was endorsed by two other big progressives in Congress, Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York.

Following Warren’s backing, Bowman tweeted that “I'm thrilled to have earned @ewarren's endorsement, a fighter for workers and an economy that doesn’t just serve those at the top. She knows it’s not enough to keep electing Democrats who will only nibble around the edges. I'm running to make big, structural change in #NY16.”

As he fights for his political life, Engel’s also getting help from some of the top Democrats in the House of Representatives.

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On Sunday and Monday, the Democratic chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee landed the backing of Majority Whip James Clyburn of South Carolina – the third-ranking Democrat in the chamber – as well as House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff of  California and fellow New York Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, who chairs the House Democratic Caucus.

And on Monday, 2016 Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton backed Engel.

“I have worked with Eliot Engel as first lady, as senator from New York and as secretary of state,” Clinton said in a statement provided to The New York Times. “Every step of the way, his No. 1 priority has always remained the same: delivering for his constituents.”

The backing by the former U.S. secretary of state, two-term senator from New York State, and former first lady was her first House primary endorsement in the 2020 election cycle.

The slew of endorsements for Engel – who's served in Congress for more than three decades and currently represents New York’s 16th Congressional District, which encompasses parts of the New York City borough of the Bronx and portions of neighboring southern Westchester County – comes with just a week to go until New York’s June 23 primary.

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The backing by Clyburn and Jeffries – two senior Congressional Black Caucus members – comes after the CBC’s political wing was criticized for backing Engel, who’s white, over Bowman, who is black.

Both Clyburn and Jeffries highlighted Engel’s years of fighting “for justice and equality.” Clyburn's backing comes as House Democrats – in the wake of the death of George Floyd in police custody – prepare to move through the chamber a sweeping police reform bill of which Engel is an original sponsor.

And Schiff spotlighted Engel’s leadership in the House Democrats’ oversight of President Trump and his administration.

Engel – who also has the support of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi – has come under attack for spending more time at his home in Potomac, Md., than at his apartment in the Bronx. And recently he was put on the defensive after he was captured on a live microphone suggesting that “if I didn’t have a primary, I wouldn’t care” about speaking at an event.

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The New York Times cited that moment as it endorsed Bowman.

The possibility of Bowman ousting Engel this month is earning comparisons to Ocasio-Cortez’s upset of longtime Rep. Joe Crowley in the 2018 Democratic primary.