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Former NYC School Principal Jamaal Bowman, Running Unopposed, Elected to Congress After Surprise Primary Win

By Kevin Mahnken | November 3, 2020

(Jeenah Moon/Getty Images)

2020’s KEY EDUCATION VOTES: See our full coverage of the 46 races that could reshape America’s schools following Election Day — and get the latest updates on state policies and students’ challenges during the pandemic by signing up for The 74 Newsletter.

Bronx educator Jamaal Bowman has easily been elected the next representative of New York’s Sixteenth Congressional District. The Democrat was running with no Republican opponents in one of the most liberal districts in the country, an amalgam of the northern Bronx and parts of several Westchester suburbs.

With 89 percent of precincts reporting, ABC News reported Bowman’s win late Tuesday, though it was never in doubt after he secured the Democratic nomination.

In June, Bowman shocked much of the political establishment by upsetting Rep. Eliot Engel, a 32-year veteran of the House and a foreign affairs maven. The primary became the latest flare-up in a national struggle in the Democratic Party between long-serving incumbents and progressive insurgents — a rift that was exposed in the Bronx two years prior when Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez defeated long-serving Rep. Joe Crowley.

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As a mark of Bowman’s progressive bona fides, he pledged his support for Ocasio-Cortez’s proposal for a multi-trillion-dollar Green New Deal, called for lawmakers to defund the police following the killing of George Floyd and won the endorsements of party kingmakers like Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren.

The congressman-elect worked as an elementary teacher, administrator, and guidance counselor before founding the Cornerstone Academy for Social Action, where he served as principal for nine years. In an interview with The 74 before the primary, he said his experience as an educator helped shape his proposals for schools: a moratorium on new charter school openings, expanded access to pre-K, and more culturally relevant pedagogy.

“What about focusing on Montessori education? What about community schools in historically oppressed circumstances? I don’t see the leadership in the Democratic Party talking about education in this way, to the granular level … in terms of curriculum, instruction and formative assessment. That’s what we’re trying to add to the conversation.”

2020’s KEY EDUCATION VOTES: See our full coverage of the 46 races that could reshape America’s schools following Election Day — and get the latest updates on state policies and students’ challenges during the pandemic by signing up for The 74 Newsletter

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