Yesterday afternoon, Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. gathered local leaders together to address instances of looting in the wake of the George Floyd demonstrations. One of the officials was Eliot Engel, representing New York’s 16th Congressional District. Covering 14 cities in Westchester, his area also includes 10 sections of the Bronx: Baychester, Co-op City, Eastchester, Edenwald, Fieldston, Riverdale, Spuyten Duyvil, Wakefield, Williamsbridge, and Woodlawn. He’s been in Congress since 1989.
But Mr. Engel might finally be done. Before Mr. Diaz Jr. started the press conference, the Congressman betrayed his true reason for being there. As cameras for News 12 in the Bronx went live, Mr. Diaz Jr. was still deciding who would speak. The two politicians then had this exchange:
Diaz Jr: Please bear with me. I’ll announce everybody. I appreciate you coming, but then I gotta go down the list and it’s just too many folks here.
Engel: If I didn’t have a primary, I wouldn’t care. [The primary election for Mr. Engel’s seat will be held next month on June 23rd.]
Diaz Jr: Say that again?
Engel: If I didn’t have a primary, I wouldn’t care.
Diaz Jr: Don’t do that to me. We’re not going to do this. We’re not politicizing. Everybody has a primary, you know? I’m sorry.
Engel: Ruben, as long as we’re announced.
Diaz Jr: Of course. I’ll do that.
Later in the day, as his sentiment spread, Mr. Engel responded with this:
In the context of running for re-election, I thought it was important for people to know where I stand, that’s why I asked to speak. Of course, I care deeply about what’s happening in this country, that’s what I wanted to convey. I love the Bronx, grew up in the Bronx and lived here all my life. I would not have tried to impose on the borough president if I didn’t think it was important.
But according to a story in The Atlantic, “Why Isn’t Eliot Engel in New York?” [May 14, 2020], the Congressman hadn’t been home for a while. In fact, he’s spent much of the Covid-19 crisis in the suburbs of Washington, D.C. — from March 27th to at least the day of The Atlantic‘s report. Meanwhile, the other city reps like Carolyn Maloney (D-12) had all been working in their congressional districts. So perhaps the voters finally know where Mr. Engel “stands” on them. As he clearly explained to Mr. Diaz Jr.: “If I didn’t have a primary, I wouldn’t care.”
Photo by Amanda Bossard, Anchor/Reporter for News 12 the Bronx and News 12 Brooklyn. Courtesy of her Twitter feed. June 2, 2020.
Arrows added by Rick Stachura.