Black candidates tap protest energy to challenge Democrats

NEW YORK (AP) — Amy McGrath and Eliot Engel live hundreds of miles apart in states with dramatically different politics. Yet they are both the preferred candidates of the Democratic Party’s Washington establishment as voters in Kentucky and New York decide their congressional primary elections on Tuesday. On the eve of their elections, Engel, a 16-term House incumbent who represents parts of the Bronx and New York City’s wealthy suburbs, and McGrath, a former military officer and fundraising juggernaut running in her first Kentucky Senate campaign, are facing strong challenges from lower-profile Black candidates. The challengers have tapped into the wounded progressivemovement’s desire for transformational change suddenly animated by sweeping civil rights protests across America. Engel’s challenger, 45-year-old former public school principal Jamaal Bowman, and McGrath’s opponent, 35-year-old state Rep. Charles Booker, speak openly about their personal experience with police brutality and racism as they promote progressive plans to transform the nation’s health care system and economy. Bowman and Booker have also won the endorsement of Bernie Sanders, among a growing list of progressive leaders trying to influence the races from afar. The Vermont senator failed to win the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination, but he continues to shape congressional primaries — even if it puts him at odds with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who is backing Engel, and SenateMinority Leader Chuck Schumer, who helped recruit McGrath. Bowman seized on the comment and the perception that Engel has lost touch with the entirety of his diverse district, which features Westchester County's multimillion-dollar homes and the Bronx's housing projects.