Far-left Democrats hardened their grip on New York City politics in the primaries this week, while President Trump’s influence in the Republican Party was called into question after his preferred pick was blown out in a race for a vacant U.S. House seat in North Carolina.
The wave of liberal activism that rose up against Mr. Trump when he took office has intensified since the killing of George Floyd and fueled a changing of the guard in New York’s 16th Congressional District.
That was where Jamaal Bowman declared victory Wednesday over Rep. Eliot Engel, who was first elected to Congress in 1988.
“I cannot wait to get to Washington and cause problems for the people maintaining the status quo,” said Mr. Bowman, a 44-year-old former school superintendent.
“I’m a Black man who was raised by a single mother in a housing project. That story doesn’t usually end in Congress,” he said. “But today, that 11-year-old boy who was beaten by police is about to be your next representative.
He claimed the win as tallies showed him with a significant double-digit lead over Mr. Engel, the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.
Four months out from the general election, the results from Tuesday’s primaries, some of which were still unknown, provided a snapshot of the national political landscape that, at least for a night, suggested that the November election will be a clash between an emboldened left wing and a weakened president.
“I think nationally he is in a perilous enough position right now that I definitely would see these as potential warning signs for Trump,” said John Miles Coleman, of the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics.
In the North Carolina Republican primaries, Lynda Bennett, Mr. Trump’s hand-picked successor to Rep. Mark Meadows, who resigned to become White House chief of staff, was soundly defeated by 24-year-old Madison Cawthorn in the 11th Congressional District.
It marked the second contest of the primary cycle where Mr. Trump landed on the losing side.
Republican insiders dismissed the idea that the result was a black eye for Mr. Trump and said they expect Mr. Cawthorn to align himself with the president.
Mr. Cawthorn, who is paralyzed from the waist down as a result of a car crash, said Mr. Trump called to congratulate him.
“He was talking about how amazing a victory it was,” Mr. Cawthorn said on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.” “He defined it as beautiful.”
Though the final results in New York will not be known until election officials count absentee ballots, liberals were expected to win open seats in the 15th and 17th congressional districts.
Meanwhile, Rep. Carolyn Maloney, New York Democrat and chairwoman of the House Oversight and Reform Committee, was locked in a tough reelection battle against Suraj Patel, who also ran against her in 2018.
The results were clear in the 14th Congressional District, where far-left ringleader Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez crushed her primary rivals.
It all but guaranteed her a second term in the House and cleared the way for her to consider launching a primary challenge against Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer in 2022.
Ms. Ocasio-Cortez shocked the political world in 2018 when she defeated Rep. Joseph Crowley, a top-ranking Democrat in the House.
“Wall Street CEOs, from Goldman Sachs to Blackstone, poured in millions to defeat our grassroots campaign tonight,” Ms. Ocasio-Cortez said in a post on Twitter. “But their money couldn’t buy a movement.”
The races reinforced New York City’s reputation as a hotbed of liberal activism that is demanding Democratic Party leaders move to the left and embrace sweeping systemic change in health care, policing and other areas.
“I do think if I was a longtime incumbent I would be on edge right now,” Mr. Coleman said.
Mr. Bowman’s race, meanwhile, became the most high-profile intraparty battle between the liberal and centrist forces.
He had the support of Ms. Ocasio-Cortez, as well as Sen. Bernard Sanders of Vermont and Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts.
Mr. Engel had the backing of Mr. Schumer, as well as other party establishment figures including Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Hillary Clinton, the party’s 2016 presidential nominee.
Mr. Engel led the House Foreign Affairs Committee for seven years and has long been known for his pro-Israel positions. He also played an influential role in the House impeachment inquiry of President Trump.
He launched repeated oversight efforts of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and the department’s foreign policy practices. Most recently, he investigated the circumstances surrounding the firing of State Department Inspector General Steve Linick.
Mr. Bowman, meanwhile, made foreign policy an issue against his challenger.
“You voted against President Obama’s Iran [nuclear] deal. You said on CNN just this past June that you didn’t want to tie Trump’s hands when it came to strikes on Iran,” Mr. Bowman tweeted to the incumbent in January, urging him to support a bill to cut funding for military action against Iran.
“You’ve belatedly come around after being pushed by our communities and the grassroots.”
Despite sharing similar views of a two-state solution for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and ending U.S. support for the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen, Mr. Bowman, who has touted himself as liberal on foreign policy, targeted Mr. Engel’s 2015 vote against the Iran nuclear deal and his history of accepting donations from weapons manufacturers.
“He supports a hawkish and costly foreign policy agenda instead of focusing on the communities in our district that have been neglected for far too long,” Mr. Bowman said.