‘With seniority comes clout, comes power:’ Rep. Engel asks voters for another term
A senior member of Congress is seeking another term representing parts of Westchester and the Bronx.
Rep. Eliot Engel has served as the U.S. representative for New York’s 16 Congressional District since 2013. He served in the 17 and 19 districts before that.
If he wins this summer’s primary election, it will be his 17 term serving as a congressman overall. His political career spans four decades, 30 of those years spent in Congress.
"There's nothing more gratifying, I've learned through the years, than actually helping somebody and making a difference in their lives and that makes a big difference in your life as well,” he says.
Raised in the Bronx to a lower-class family, Engel says his political mantra was established at a young age.
"My mother used to say, ‘Never lose your dignity, always put your best foot forward,’” he says.
Rep. Engel served in the New York Assembly from 1977 until 1988 after he graduated from Hunter/Lehman College and New York Law School. He made the jump to Congress by 1989 and never turned back.
"It's a great feeling to know that you've worked hard, you've played by the rules, you've been effective,” says Engel.
Engel chairs the House Foreign Affairs Committee, which was deeply involved in the impeachment of President Donald Trump.
"We have to be a counter-punch to what the president is doing, the bad things that the president is doing,” he says.
His political career also includes supporting same-sex marriage in 1996, crafting the Affordable Care Act in 2010, opposing the SALT cap in 2017, a lifetime F rating from the NRA, and backing the Green New Deal to address climate change.
"With seniority comes clout, comes power, that's the seniority system, that's the way it works," says Engel. "Now I'm at that point, so if there are things that we need for our community, frankly I'm in a better position to get it than someone who might be new."
Despite his work on national policy, he says he's most proud of his efforts to help his constituents locally.
"No problem is too big or too small, we never turn anybody away,” he says. “We try to help them to the best we can, and we've been successful in helping thousands of people throughout the years."
He faces a wave of progressive Democrats and political newcomers in this summer election. Engel says he’s relying on his longtime record to earn two more years in office.
"It doesn't really matter who's running against you,” he says. “What matters is if people think you've done a good job."
Starting Tuesday, candidates can begin collecting the required number of signatures to make it on the ballot for June.