7 Candidates You Should Know on New York and Kentucky’s Primary Ballots

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Former middle school principal Jamaal Bowman is challenging incumbent Representative Eliot Engel, chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee in the Democratic primary. (Jeenah Moon / Getty Images)

Vital Democratic primaries, many of them with national consequences, will take place next on Tuesday, June 23. Nation Justice Correspondent Elie Mystal and National Affairs Correspondent John Nichols have identified a handful of races that they’re keeping their eyes on in New York and Kentucky—two states that delayed their primary elections because of the pandemic. Here’s a roundup of seven candidates Mystal and Nichols think are making noteworthy runs.
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Charles Booker, US Senate candidate, Kentucky
“Don’t you tell me Kentucky isn’t ready for change,” says US Senate candidate
Charles Booker, a 35-year-old legislator who represents a predominantly African American district in Louisville, as he travels the country roads of rural Kentucky. Booker has gained a lot of notice for joining #BlackLivesMatter marchers in his hometown, but he has also stood with out-of-work miners in coal country. Challenging the D.C.–insider pick in the Democratic primary, retired Marine fighter pilot Amy McGrath, Booker has built a movement campaign around the argument that only a multiracial, multiethnic coalition that champions economic, social, and racial justice can beat the most powerful man in Washington: Mitch McConnell. He’s persuaded the largest newspapers in the state, both of which have endorsed his candidacy, as well as folks in Eastern Kentucky towns like Prestonsburg—population 3,255—where he recently rallied with a crowd that chanted, “From the hood to the holler!” “They say the arc of the moral universe bends toward justice,” explains Booker. “Well, we are bending it in real time.”

—John Nichols

Jamaal Bowman, House of Representatives candidate, NY–16
Eliot Engel is the US Representative for the 16th district of New York, the district where I live, and I wasn’t going to vote for him in the primary even before he was caught on a hot mic saying that he only cared about speaking at a Black Lives Matter rally because he had a primary. That’s because the challenger forcing Engel to pretend to care, Jamaal Bowman, earned my vote before Engel told the truth about himself. Bowman is a former middle school principal and made racial and social justice key to his congressional campaign long before George Floyd was murdered.

That couldn’t be more important in my majority-minority district, which has stunning wealth and school inequality between the largely white parts and the largely minority areas. I live in the “white” part of town. Bowman is committed to extending the suburban charm (and services) enjoyed by my area across the district. And he pledges to make it a little bit safer for my two children to ride their bikes while black around their own neighborhood.

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