AOC, other progressive U.S. Democrats fight to expand influence with Tuesday primaries

New York state held primary elections on Tuesday to determine the fate of progressive Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and other U.S. House members, testing the strength of the Democratic Party’s left wing after moderate Joe Biden became the presumptive presidential nominee. U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) bumps elbows with local resident Upkar Chana while greeting voters during the Democratic congressional primary election in the Queens borough of New York City, New York, U.S., June 23, 2020. REUTERS/Mike SegarOcasio-Cortez, the 30-year-old progressive firebrand better known as AOC, faces a challenge in her New York City district from former CNBC television anchor Michelle Caruso-Cabrera, 53, backed by the conservative-leaning U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Tuesday’s nominating contests in New York, Kentucky and four other states also feature progressives challenging older, establishment Democrats at a time of a national reckoning with racial injustice following the May 25 death of George Floyd, an unarmed Black man, while in Minneapolis police custody. New York officials said results on Tuesday night after polls close would not include returns from absentee ballots, which were requested in record numbers during the coronavirus pandemic. Hundreds of thousands of absentee ballots were also outstanding in Kentucky. In a congressional district neighboring Ocasio-Cortez’s, Jamaal Bowman, 44, a middle-school principal, is mounting a strong challenge to Representative Eliot Engel, a 31-year House veteran who chairs the powerful House Foreign Affairs Committee. Progressive Senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren as well as Ocasio-Cortez have endorsed Bowman, while Democratic Party stalwarts, such as former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, the party’s 2016 presidential nominee, have rallied around Engel. The progressive movement suffered setbacks at the national level earlier this year when former Vice President Joe Biden won the party’s race to take on President Donald Trump in November’s election, with dominant wins over Warren and Sanders in the state-by-state nominating contests. Related CoverageDetails of U.S. Congress races in Tuesday's primary electionsThe left wing of the Democratic Party is now taking its battle to down-ballot primary races with new energy and purpose, bolstered by growing calls for ending racial injustice and inequality in the aftermath of Floyd’s death. House Democrats - progressives and moderates - are expected to band together later this week when they vote to pass sweeping legislation on police practices. But there appeared to be little support in Congress for calls to “defund” police departments, as some on the left sought. SPIRITED KENTUCKY CONTEST In Kentucky’s primaries, Amy McGrath, an ex-fighter pilot, was leading progressive Charles Booker, an African-American state legislator, in preliminary results from the race to become the Democratic candidate to face Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on Nov. 3, the New York Times said. Like Engel, McGrath was backed by the party establishment. With 48% of precincts reporting, she had 45.5% of the vote, to 35.2% for Booker, the Times said. His candidacy had been elevated by the recent Black Lives Matter protests. Warren, who supported McGrath in her failed bid for a U.S. House of Representatives seat in 2018 and initially in her Senate candidacy, switched her allegiance to Booker. Because absentee ballots are still outstanding, final results will not be known until June 30, Kentucky officials said. Slideshow (14 Images)A Trump-endorsed candidate lost a Republican primary runoff in a congressional district in North Carolina. Madison Cawthorn beat Lynda Bennett, who was also endorsed by Trump’s chief of staff Mark Meadows, who formerly held the seat. Cawthorn, 24, will face Democrat Moe Davis in the November election. In New York, the moderate-progressive competition was showcased in yet another primary race, where Representative Carolyn Maloney aimed for a 15th two-year term in the House. The 74-year-old Maloney faced a challenge from the left by 36-year-old Suraj Patel, who worked in commercial real estate and as a campaign aide to former President Barack Obama. He failed in 2018 to unseat Maloney.

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