01 Jamaal Bowman
Washington CNN  — 

A progressive Democrat who ousted a longtime establishment congressman in a New York primary earlier this month said Monday that he’s “right in alignment” with presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden, who is running as a moderate Democrat.

The comments by Jamaal Bowman, a former middle school principal who defeated House Foreign Affairs Chairman Eliot Engel, underline a recognition by Democrats across the ideological spectrum that avoiding the intra-party fractures that helped sink Hillary Clinton in 2016 will be necessary to beat Donald Trump this November.

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“In this moment, we’re dealing with the second biggest crisis since the Great Depression. We have to get people back to work, we got to get a handle on this pandemic. And I’m right in alignment with Joe Biden in fighting those fights as well as fighting for racial and economic justice in all its forms,” Bowman told CNN’s John Berman on “New Day” Monday morning.

In particular, Bowman cited a policy platform crafted by allies of Biden and Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont that was unveiled earlier this month and represents an effort by the former vice president to include progressive priorities in his general election campaign.

“The Bernie Sanders-Joe Biden alliance came together to draft policy platforms together. And I’m very happy to see that Joe Biden is a lot more focused on environmental justice and climate change than maybe he was before,” said Bowman, who added that the former vice president is “listening” to the progressive wing of the party.

Bowman was considered an underdog in his primary against Engel, who was supported by establishment heavyweights including Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Clinton, who lives in a neighboring district.

His victory in the Democratic primary for New York’s 16th Congressional District – which includes parts of the Bronx and Westchester County – was a surprise given Engel’s status as a long-serving congressman with establishment backing. Bowman, 44, ran as a more progressive challenger to Engel, championing policies such as “Medicare for All” and the Green New Deal.

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Democrats have repeatedly acknowledged the need for party unity as they hope to retake the White House. Four years ago, some of Sanders’ most ardent supporters, including many young voters, stayed home on Election Day, and Biden’s campaign is hoping to not only tap into progressives’ enthusiasm but avoid alienating them.

Bowman on Monday downplayed the policy differences between himself and the more moderate Biden by nodding to the ultimate goal of defeating Trump.

“You know Joe Biden, first and foremost, wants to move this country forward in the right direction,” Bowman said.