Did This Hot Mic Moment Just Kill a New York Democrat's Re-election?

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Posted: Jun 03, 2020 12:50 PM
Did This Hot Mic Moment Just Kill a New York Democrat's Re-election?

Source: AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite

Well, at least he’s being honest, right? I’m being facetious. In the wake of the riots that have erupted from the horrific death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis Police, Rep. Eliot Engel (D-NY) apparently made some remarks about the looting and vandalism that’s engulfing the Big Apple. There’s one big problem: He didn’t mean any of it. Engel was caught in a hot mic moment, saying that he wouldn’t care if it weren’t for his primary election on June 23 (via Politico):

Rep. Eliot Engel became engulfed in yet another controversy on Tuesday after he was overheard on a “hot mic” saying he only sought press attention at a local event on the unrest over police brutality because of his upcoming primary threat.

“If I didn't have a primary, I wouldn’t care,” the New York Democrat told Ruben Diaz Jr., the Bronx borough president, as he asked for time to speak at a news conference on local vandalism.

 The comments — which Engel didn’t know were being recorded by a local television station — quickly went viral. The 12-second clip was viewed more than 700,000 times by Tuesday afternoon. In a statement issued later, Engel clarified that he asked to speak because he wanted to convey that “I care deeply about what's happening in this country.”

Oh, Eliot, you may have cost yourself re-election. Maybe. In 2010, the late Sen. Arlen Specter’s remarks about his party switch, where he said he did it to increase his chances of re-election, was weaponized by his primary challenger, former Rep. Joe Sestak. Specter had long since been a Republican. Specter would go on to lose the 2010 primary.

Yesterday, one of Engel’s primary challengers dropped out, endorsing the other challenger in the process (via The Hill):

One of two progressive primary challengers to House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.) has dropped out of the race and endorsed Engel’s other challenger, setting up a race between Engel and education activist Jamaal Bowman.

Andom Ghebreghiorgis announced his withdrawal and endorsement of Bowman on Monday in the Democratic primary for New York’s 16th District, according to NY1.

Engel has represented the district, which includes sections of the Bronx and Westchester County, since 2013, but has represented New York in Congress since 1989. 

We’ll see on June 23 if this hot mic moment killed Engel’s political career.

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UPDATE: Yeah, he's in trouble.