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Jamaal Bowman Is Headed To Congress, Pledges To Make Democrats ‘The Party Of Dismantling Mass Incarceration’

Bowman has also advocated for an eviction moratorium and for rental payments to be cancelled for the duration of the pandemic.

(Photo by Stephanie Keith/Getty Images)

Today voters in New York’s 16th district elected Jamaal Bowman to represent them in Congress, after he ran on a platform of criminal justice reform, housing justice, and raising taxes on the wealthy. 

In the heavily Democratic district, which includes parts of the Bronx and Westchester County, it’s no surprise that Bowman defeated Conservative Party nominee Patrick McManus. The real fight occurred during the June primary, when Bowman challenged and defeated 32-year incumbent U.S. Representative Eliot Engel. 

The primary took place during the summer’s nationwide protests against police brutality and the racism of the criminal legal system. During the campaign, Bowman, who was backed by the Democratic Socialists of America and the Working Families Party, faulted Engel for supporting the 1994 crime bill, which contributed to fueling incarceration. Unlike Engel, he embraced many Black Lives Matter activists’ goal of defunding the police.

Over the summer, Bowman told The Appeal: Political Report that he wants to push the Democratic Party to be “the party of dismantling mass incarceration.” 

“We’ve got to keep protesting, marching, running primary challengers, and ushering in a new generation of leaders in every institution,” he said.

He cast the issue in terms of his own encounters with the police. “I’ve been arrested and accused of stealing my own car, pulled over and handcuffed for not properly signaling, and knocked around by police officers for rough housing with my friends when I was just a kid,” he said. “As a Black man in America, I know what it’s like to feel occupied in my own community.” He added that he supports cutting the New York Police Department’s budget, giving all incarcerated people an opportunity for release after 10 years, abolishing felony disenfranchisement, and decriminalizing sex work, among other proposals that he ran on.

Bowman has also advocated for an eviction moratorium and for rental payments to be cancelled for the duration of the pandemic. He told The Appeal last month that lawmakers must raise taxes on the richest New Yorkers so the state can “provide more support to renters so they can stay in their homes.” 

“While people are dying, we’re seeing millionaires and billionaires grow their wealth,” he said. “So all we’re asking the government to do is to tax the wealthy—ensure that they pay their fair share to keep our society and democracy going.”

Daniel Nichanian contributed reporting.