Eliot Engel wins Congressional primary in landslide

Jun 26, 2018
Mike Lungariello
Rockland/Westchester Journal News
U.S. Rep Eliot Engel and candidate Jonathan Lewis talk about the 16th Congressional district race. Mark Vergari, mvergari@lohud.com

It isn't clear if Republicans will run a candidate for the seat in November.

EASTCHESTER – U.S. Rep. Eliot Engel buried three challengers on his way to a landslide win in Tuesday's 16th District Democratic Party primary.

Engel categorized his runaway victory as a continuation of an anti-Donald Trump blue wave that previously netted local landslide wins for Westchester County Executive George Latimer and New York State Sen. Shelley Mayer in November and April, respectively.

"We're gonna win election after election after election," Engel told supporters gathered at Ciao restaurant. "It started with George and Shelley and continued with me. And we're going to send a message to Washington, the president of the United States, that we are sick and tired of his nonsense and we want a change."

Engel, in office since 1989, dispensed with three challengers: Scarsdale executive Jonathan Lewis, Mount Vernon businessman Derickson Lawrence and Bronx activist Joyce Briscoe.

Although results were still being counted as of 6:45 a.m., the election appeared to be a landslide, with Engel having almost 75 percent of the total vote and more total votes than all three challengers combined.

Districts reporting: 719 of 732

Votes by candidate:

  • Eliot Engel: 20,394
  • Jonathan Lewis: 4,468
  • Joyce Briscoe: 1,551
  • Derickson Lawrence 1,150

The 16th District, one of 27 House of Representatives seats in the state, encompasses the southern half of Westchester and the northern part of the Bronx in New York City, where Engel lives.

Despite the seemingly easy win, Engel had spent at least $1.3 million in the short campaign, according to Federal Election Commission filings. Lewis, who used a large chunk of his own money to fund the campaign, spent more than $700,000, according to the latest FEC filing.

Lewis said in an election night statement that his campaign succeeded in giving his neighbors a voice.

"We have held the party establishment accountable in a constructive effort to build a better Democrat party and most effectively oppose Trump and the Republicans," he said.

Lawrence and Briscoe trailed far behind in spending and fundraising, with no FEC data was available for Briscoe.

Engel's win bodes well for his chances in the midterm elections in November, as the district is overwhelmingly Democratic.

Republicans have yet to name a candidate to face Engel in the midterm elections in November and it isn't clear if they'll nominate a candidate at all. There was no GOP candidate nominated against Engel in his last two re-elections.

There are 251,841 active registered Democrats in the district and only 62,717 active registered Republicans, according to the state Board of Elections. But, it appears fewer than 40,000 Democrats participated in Tuesday's primary. State Sen. Mayer said she didn't think that meant any newfound post-Trump enthusiasm and volunteerism was waning among liberals in the district.

"I think they're highly engaged, they believe local elections matter, certainly national elections matter like this and they're very, very committed that their voices are heard," Mayer told The Journal News/lohud. "They're not going to be left behind."

Latimer blamed what he called a dropoff in participation on the timing of the race and the fact it didn't coincide with other primaries or elections. New York is the rare state that holds its federal and state primaries on different days, with the state primaries scheduled for September.

Latimer defended Engel as a voice for change even though he'd been in office for decades, saying the congressman knew his way around Washington. He said voters recognized that.

"They realize in this particular case the person who's been there has been a force for change, not just he's been there there, therefore he's bad and he should go," Latimer said.

Engel's election went quite differently than the Democratic primary election in District 14 in the Bronx and Queens. There, newcomer Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez launched a campaign as a liberal voice and despite being underfunded was able to unseat longtime incumbent Rep. Joe Crowley.

Crowley was viewed as a potential speaker if Democrats could win back the House this year.

Ocasio-Cortez had support from actress Cynthia Nixon, whose running in a September state primary against Gov. Andrew Cuomo.