Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer is picking a side in the primary fight of this election cycle.
Just one week after declining to formally weigh in on the Democratic primary fight between incumbent Rep. Eliot Engel (D-NY) and former middle school principal Jamaal Bowman, Schumer (D-NY) are throwing his support behind the 16-term House Democrat.
In a statement, Schumer touted his longstanding relationship with Engel, 73, as well as his work on the Foreign Affairs Committee.
“I have had a long, close friendship with Eliot Engel and have worked with him on many issues,” the statement read, “From taking on Donald Trump, to standing up for the right woman to choose to expand affordable health care, to fighting for civil. and human rights, Eliot Engel has been a strong and effective fighter for the people of his district and all Americans – and I am proud to endorse him. “
“As chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee, Eliot has protected our democracy from foreign attacks, and as a local leader Eliot improved mass transit and worked tirelessly with me after Hurricane Sandy. Eliot Engel got the job done, ”the statement continued.
The endorsement was first reported by Jewish Insider.
Speaking to reporters last week, Schumer was adamant that he had not endorsed Engel, saying after being asked about Bowman’s candidacy, “Well, I agree in that race. Frequently with Senate races. “
He went on to stress that he was “focusing on the Senate.”
The comments are likely to come as a surprise for Engel and his campaign, who has listed Schumer at the top of his endorsement page on his reelection website.
One day after the snub, Schumer’s name was removed from the site’s endorsement section.
Bowman has seen a surge in progressive attention and support in recent weeks, most thanks in part to the string of disastrous headlines Engel has faced since May.
Engel’s struggle to keep Bowman from gaining momentum hit a snag earlier this month, after the longtime House Democrat became embroiled in controversy over his “if I have a primary, I care” remark.
The Bronx-Westchester lawmaker was at a press conference with local leaders and elected officials when he asked Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. if he could make some remarks at the microphone.
When Diaz Jr. Said there were too many people on the list, Engel mumbled through his face mask: “If I have primary, I care.”
He went on to repeat the remark again after Diaz Jr.. said he hears him.
Engel has defended the comment since, arguing that he wanted voters to know he cared deeply about the unrest roiling the city.
“In the context of running for re-election, I think it’s important for people to know where I stand, why I asked to speak,” he said.
The primary race went from bad to worse for the incumbent when The Atlantic revealed how Engel was missing in action for over two months as his New Rochelle district battled the first COVID-19 outbreak in New York.
Instead, the magazine reported, he was hiding out at his Maryland home.
The vanishing act left political pundits scratching their heads and Bowman seized the moment to accuse the Bronx-born Engel of having “completely lost touch” with the district he serves.
In an effort to maintain that momentum, progressives are uniting in spite of the wounds that are still healing in the wake of the 2020 presidential primary, where moderates were able to get their candidate of choice across the finish line.
Since securing the backing on Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) And Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), Bowman has seen a wave of progressive support both in fundraising dollars and endorsements.
Whether progressive endorsements will help Bowman land the plane remains to be seen, but the effort to oust Engel has united the recently-fractured wing of the Democratic party.
Two of the most prominent progressive organizations – Justice Democrats and the Working Families Party – announced earlier this month that they would be uniting to spend over half-a-million dollars to elect Bowman.
During the primary Democratic primary, Justice Democrats endorsed Sanders, while WFP endorsed Warren.
While united effort is likely an understandable concern for the incumbent powerful, he is not going down without a fight.
Engel has the backing of moderate political heavyweights like Hillary Clinton, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, the Congressional Black Caucus, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), House Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-SC) and House Democratic Caucus Chairman. Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY).