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Jamaal Bowman
Official portrait, 2021
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from New York's 16th district
Assumed office
January 3, 2021
Preceded byEliot Engel
Personal details
Born (1976-04-01) April 1, 1976 (age 48)
Manhattan, New York, U.S.
Political partyDemocratic
Other political
Working Families Party[a]
Democratic Socialists of America[b][c]
SpouseMelissa Oppenheimer
Residence(s)Yonkers, New York, U.S.
EducationUniversity of New Haven (BA)
Mercy College (MA)
Manhattanville College (EdD)

Jamaal Anthony Bowman (born April 1, 1976)[4][5] is an American politician and former educator serving as the U.S. representative for New York's 16th congressional district since 2021. The district covers the southern half of Westchester County, including Mount Vernon, New Rochelle, and Yonkers, as well as a small portion of the Bronx.

Bowman is the founder and former principal of the Cornerstone Academy for Social Action, a public middle school in Eastchester, Bronx. He defeated 16-term incumbent Eliot Engel in the 2020 Democratic primary and was first elected to Congress that fall. Bowman is a democratic socialist and a member of the Squad, an informal group of progressive House Democrats.[6][7]

On October 26, 2023, Bowman pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor for willfully setting off a false fire alarm in the Cannon House Office Building. In exchange for his guilty plea, the charge was dropped. On December 7, 2023, the House of Representatives voted 214–191 to censure him in connection with the fire alarm incident.[8][9]

Early life and education

Bowman was born in Manhattan, a borough of New York City. He lived with his grandmother in the East River Houses in East Harlem during the week, and with his mother and sisters in Yorkville on the Upper East Side on weekends. His grandmother died when he was eight years old, after which he lived full time on the Upper East Side.[10][11] At age 16, he moved with his family to Sayreville, New Jersey.[11] He attended Sayreville War Memorial High School, where he played on the football team.[12]

Bowman briefly attended Potomac State Junior College in West Virginia before ultimately earning a Bachelor of Arts in sports management from the University of New Haven in 1999.[13] At the University of New Haven, he played college football as a linebacker for the New Haven Chargers.[14][15] Bowman later earned a Master of Arts in counseling from Mercy College and a Doctor of Education in educational leadership from Manhattanville College.[16]

Teaching career

After earning his undergraduate degree, Bowman decided not to pursue a career in sports management. Upon the suggestion of a family friend who worked for the New York City Department of Education, Bowman began working as an educator. His first job was as a crisis management teacher in a South Bronx elementary school.[11] In 2009, he founded Cornerstone Academy for Social Action, a public middle school in the Bronx.[10][11]

As principal of Cornerstone Academy for Social Action, Bowman curated a "wall of honor" featuring likenesses of prominent Black, Latino, and Asian individuals. Its honorees included Martin Luther King Jr., Sonia Sotomayor, Cynthia McKinney, Mutulu Shakur, and Assata Shakur.[17][18][19] HuffPost political reporter Daniel Marans criticized Bowman for including "a notorious antisemite and two Black militants convicted of murder and armed robbery"; Bowman's campaign spokesperson responded that it is "a rhetorical tool of the far right to insinuate educating students on major figures of Black American history is serving to promote hateful or divisive rhetoric or actions."[17]

Bowman became a leading advocate against standardized testing.[20][21] His blog on the role of standardized testing received national attention.[20] He wrote that high-stakes testing had a role in perpetuating inequalities,[22] including turnover, tumult, and a vicious cycle it creates in students' and educators' lives, as assessment performance damages a school's ability to teach and, subsequently, the quality of the education upon which the student is assessed. By the mid-2010s, a quarter of Bowman's students had opted out of standardized testing.

Bowman also advocated for children to receive arts, history, and science education in addition to the basics of literacy and numeracy.[20] Bowman's school policy used a restorative justice model to address the school-to-prison pipeline.[23] After 10 years as principal, he left the job to focus on his congressional campaign.[24]

U.S. House of Representatives



The Justice Democrats recruited Bowman to run for the United States House of Representatives in New York's 16th congressional district, represented by 16-term incumbent Eliot Engel.[25] Engel had served as a member of the House since 1989 and as chair of the United States House Committee on Foreign Affairs since the first session of the 116th United States Congress. Bowman was inspired to run by the insurgent 2018 campaign of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and described his platform as "anti-poverty and anti-racist", with support for housing, criminal justice reform, education, Medicare for All, and a Green New Deal.[26] No Republican even filed, meaning that whoever won the Democratic primary would be essentially assured of victory in November. Registered Democrats in the district outnumber registered Republicans by more than four to one, meaning that any hypothetical Republican challenger would have faced nearly impossible odds in any case.[27]

Bowman's campaign criticized Engel's record on foreign policy and response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Bowman's endorsements from the Sunrise Movement and the New York Working Families Party assisted with fundraising despite being well behind Engel.[28] He was also endorsed by Ocasio-Cortez, Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, and the editorial board of The New York Times.[25][29]

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, a large portion of ballots were cast absentee, but because of Bowman's 26-point lead on election night, news outlets soon started referring to him as the presumptive Democratic nominee.[30] On July 17, 2020, based on their analysis of the absentee ballot count, the Associated Press called the primary race for Bowman.[27]

Bowman's primary victory all but guaranteed he would win the general election due to the 16th's heavily Democratic nature and the lack of Republican opposition.[27] He won in a landslide, defeating Conservative nominee Patrick McManus with 84% of the vote.[31]


Bowman was challenged in the Democratic primary by Westchester County legislator Vedat Gashi, who was endorsed by Bowman's predecessor and 2020 primary opponent, Eliot Engel.[32] Bowman won the primary with 54% of the vote, and the general election with 64% of the vote.[33]


Westchester County Executive and former state senator George Latimer is challenging Bowman in the Democratic primary.[34] The primary has become a target for the pro-Israel lobby since the incumbent Bowman has been one of the most outspoken opponents of U.S. support for Israel in the Israel–Hamas war.[35][36]

Some pundits have said that Bowman benefited from New York's mid-decade redistricting changes, which brought more Black voters into his district.[37]


Bowman with Vice President Kamala Harris and Secretary Xavier Becerra

Upon his swearing-in, Bowman joined The Squad, a group of progressive Democratic lawmakers. He was photographed alongside the four original Squad members and another new member, Cori Bush of Missouri's 1st congressional district.[38]

In January 2021, following the storming of the United States Capitol, Bowman introduced the Congressional Oversight of Unjust Policing Act (COUP Act) to establish a commission to investigate how United States Capitol Police handled the storming of the Capitol and to look at potential ties of some of its members to white nationalism.[39] Bowman said that introducing the bill is "critical when you look at the disparity in terms of how the Capitol Police responded to the insurrection on Wednesday, versus how they responded to—not just [Black Lives Matter] protestors this summer, but other people of color, and people who are disabled, historically".[40] Such legislation came after both Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer called for the resignation of the Capitol Police chief.[41]

On November 5, 2021, Bowman was one of six House Democrats to break with their party and vote against the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act because it did not include the Build Back Better Act.[42][43]

Bowman was among the 46 House Democrats who voted against final passage of the Fiscal Responsibility Act of 2023.[44]

Fire alarm incident and House censure

Bowman pulling the alarm

On September 30, 2023, while House Democrats were attempting to delay a vote on a continuing resolution to fund the government ahead of a midnight deadline, Bowman pulled a fire alarm in the Cannon House Office Building, causing the building to be evacuated for an hour and a half.[45] Bowman initially claimed that he had set off the alarm by accident, telling reporters, "I thought the alarm would open the door".[46][47] His office released "suggested talking points" for political allies, which reiterated the claim that the alarm was an accident and called some Republicans "Nazis", language Bowman said he had not approved.[48][49][50] Then-House Speaker Kevin McCarthy alleged that the fire alarm was a delaying tactic, and promised punishment for Bowman. Other House Republicans suggested measures ranging from censure to expulsion.[51][52]

On October 3, thirteen Republicans introduced a motion to expel Bowman from the House because of the incident.[48] After a Capitol Police investigation, Bowman accepted a deal in which he pleaded guilty to the misdemeanor crime of willfully or knowingly falsely pulling a fire alarm, paid the maximum fine of $1,000, and wrote a letter of apology to police; in exchange, prosecutors agreed to drop the charges after three months.[53][54][55] On December 7, 2023, the House censured Bowman for the incident by a 214–191 vote.[56] After the censure, the House Ethics Committee dropped its review of Bowman's actions as moot.[57]

Foreign and defense policy

In September 2021, Bowman voted in favor of providing Israel with an additional $1 billion in aid to fund its Iron Dome missile defense system.[58] His vote was controversial among members of the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA), and sparked debate within the DSA about whether it should ensure its members support Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions against Israel.[59] A spokesman confirmed in October 2023 that Bowman had let his DSA membership expire in 2022 following DSA's response to his vote.[60] But in May 2024, Bowman rejoined the organization and was endorsed by its New York City chapter.[61][62] This came as he faced a strong primary challenge from George Latimer, who was endorsed by many pro-Israel lobby groups.[35][36]

Bowman was among 51 House Democrats to vote against the final passage of the 2022 National Defense Authorization Act. Explaining his vote, he said, "it is astounding how quickly Congress moves weapons but we can't ensure housing, care, and justice for our veterans, nor invest in robust jobs programs for districts like mine."[63][64]

On July 18, 2023, Bowman and eight other progressive Democrats voted against a congressional non-binding resolution proposed by August Pfluger that "the State of Israel is not a racist or apartheid state", that Congress rejects "all forms of antisemitism and xenophobia", and that “the United States will always be a staunch partner and supporter of Israel".[65]

On October 25, 2023, Bowman and eight other progressive Democrats, along with Republican Thomas Massie, voted against congressional bipartisan non-binding resolution H. Res. 771 supporting Israel in the wake of the 2023 Hamas attack on Israel. The resolution stated that the House of Representatives "stands with Israel as it defends itself against the barbaric war launched by Hamas and other terrorists" and "reaffirms the United States' commitment to Israel's security"; it passed 412–10–6.[66][67]

On November 17, 2023, Bowman called reports of Israeli women being raped during the 2023 Hamas attack "propaganda" and a "lie". After Politico reached out to his office about his statements in March 2024, Bowman walked back his previous remarks.[68][69]

Liberal Israel lobby group J Street withdrew its endorsement of Bowman on January 29, 2024, citing his "framing and approach" in his rhetoric after the Hamas attack on Israel. J Street's president Jeremy Ben-Ami said that Bowman's rhetoric had "gone too far".[70]

Committee assignments

Caucus memberships

Electoral history


2020 Democratic primary[74]
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Democratic Jamaal Bowman 49,367 55.4
Democratic Eliot Engel (incumbent) 36,149 40.6
Democratic Chris Fink 1,625 1.8
Democratic Sammy Ravelo 1,139 1.3
Democratic Andom Ghebreghiorgis (withdrawn) 761 0.9
Total votes 89,041 100.0
New York's 16th congressional district, 2020[75]
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic Jamaal Bowman 218,471 84.2
Conservative Patrick McManus 41,085 15.8
Total votes 259,556 100.0
Democratic hold


2022 Democratic primary[76]
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic Jamaal Bowman (incumbent) 17,023 57.1
Democratic Vedat Gashi 6,892 23.1
Democratic Catherine Parker 5,349 18.0
Democratic Mark Jaffee 527 1.8
Total votes 36,777 100.0
New York's 16th congressional district, 2022
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic Jamaal Bowman 124,763 57.2
Working Families Jamaal Bowman 6,422 2.9
Total Jamaal Bowman (incumbent) 131,185 60.1
Republican Miriam Flisser 73,238 33.5
Total votes 218,026 100.0
Democratic hold
Bowman at Messiah Baptist Church in New York

Personal life

Bowman lives with his wife, Melissa Oppenheimer, and their three children in Yonkers, New York.[10][77] His wife was upset about his decision to run for office for "the first eleven months", Bowman revealed on an episode of The Carlos Watson Show.[78]

Bowman is a fan of New York hip-hop group Wu-Tang Clan. He described hip-hop as a "culture that is created by teenagers who were forgotten about, and because they were forgotten about, they were forced to come together and create something beautiful".[79] Bowman drew inspiration from the Wu-Tang Clan during his underdog campaign,[80] and has frequently been seen in a Wu-Tang Clan emblazoned face covering during the COVID-19 pandemic,[80][81][82] which GQ noted allowed Bowman to send voters a message.[83]

From 2011 to 2014, Bowman maintained a blog on which he promoted 9/11 conspiracy theories.[84] After the blog was reported on by The Daily Beast, Bowman said he regretted his posts.[85][86]

See also

Explanatory notes

  1. ^ Elected on both Democratic Party and WFP ballot lines in New York via electoral fusion.[1]
  2. ^ Democratic Socialists of America is not a registered political party, instead, it is a political organization for those with democratic socialist ideologies.[2]
  3. ^ Representative Jamaal Bowman allowed his membership with DSA to expire in 2022 following a disagreement over Israel's Iron Dome missile defense system, though he rejoined the organization in 2024.[3]


  1. ^ "New York's 16th Congressional District election, 2022". Ballotpedia. Retrieved October 17, 2023.
  2. ^ Stein, Jeff (August 5, 2017). "9 questions about the Democratic Socialists of America you were too embarrassed to ask". Vox. Archived from the original on November 11, 2018. Retrieved July 11, 2022.
  3. ^ "'Unacceptably devoid of empathy': DSA is facing an internal reckoning on Israel". Politico. October 11, 2023. Retrieved October 11, 2023.
  4. ^ Clark, Dartunorro (June 14, 2020). "'Unapologetic': This progressive NYC principal is fighting to unseat a 16-term Democrat". NBC News. Archived from the original on June 14, 2020. Retrieved June 15, 2020.
  5. ^ "Jamaal Anthony Bowman". Retrieved March 27, 2021.
  6. ^ "Rep. Jamaal Bowman, member of 'The Squad,' wins New York Democratic primary - TheGrio". August 24, 2022. Archived from the original on February 15, 2023. Retrieved February 15, 2023.
  7. ^ "If You Want to Call Me a Socialist Then Call Me a Socialist". Jacobin. October 24, 2019. Archived from the original on June 15, 2020.
  8. ^ Guo, Kayla (December 7, 2023). "House Censures Jamaal Bowman for False Fire Alarm". The New York Times – via
  9. ^ "Roll Call 706 - Office of the Clerk, U.S. House of Representatives - Vote Details".
  10. ^ a b c Carp, Alex (June 17, 2020). "Jamaal Bowman Takes the Lead". New York. Archived from the original on June 17, 2020. Retrieved June 18, 2020.
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External links

U.S. House of Representatives
Preceded by Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from New York's 16th congressional district

U.S. order of precedence (ceremonial)
Preceded by United States representatives by seniority
Succeeded by
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