Time to investigate if Engel's challenger is telling the truth


Primary season is soon upon us, and in anticipation of this event, registered Democrats have received two letters from U.S. Rep. Eliot Engel’s challenger, Jonathan Lewis. 

I know nothing about Mr. Lewis beyond what he has disclosed in his letters. However, he had made very strong and serious charges against Mr. Engel. 

As a voter, I want to know if Mr. Lewis can support these charges with proof. Furthermore, I have received nothing from Mr. Engel to refute these specific charges. Perhaps Mr. Engel believes that the charges are so outlandish, unbelievable and insufficiently specific that they are not worth defending.

Still, the charges are out there, so I would like to hear from Rep. Engel beyond his mailing, which I received recently. The mailing states that the Center for Effective Lawmaking rates Rep. Engel as the No. 1 “most effective Democratic Congress member,” that Rep. Engel is a Gun Sense candidate, that by fighting for campaign finance reform he is endorsed by End Citizens United, and that he has a 100 percent pro-senior ratings from the Alliance for Retired Americans.

I don’t know anything about any of these organizations, so I don’t know what is the worth of these endorsements. But I do know that Rep. Engel has been in office for a long time, surely long enough for him to have achieved considerable seniority, and to have compiled a solid record of legislative accomplishments in addition to his casework with his constituents.

Yet, in his letters, Mr. Lewis states that Mr. Engel is “silent on issues that matter to the everyday lives of people in the district while representing big corporate interests instead of the people.” In Rep. Engel’s case, Mr. Lewis charges, Mr. Engel has accepted hundreds of thousands of dollars from PACs representing big pharma and big sugar companies, while neglecting the needs of constituents who rely upon insulin, whose costs have skyrocketed in recent years.

Mr. Lewis charges that “our democracy has been poisoned by money in politics, and Eliot Engel is a perfect manifestation of this trend. “Eliot Engel displays a clear-cut pattern of being in the pocket of special interests. He has taken money from defense companies and voted for war. He has taken money from big banks and voted to deregulate the banking industry. He has taken money from cable and phone companies, and while sitting on committees that oversee their activities, remained silent as they have dramatically raised prices.”

Is this an accurate recounting of Rep. Engel’s voting record? If so, I am dismayed to learn it, and I want an explanation of these votes — or did Mr. Lewis just pick and choose and ignore other votes on these matters?

Mr. Lewis states that Rep. Engel has “compiled a paltry legislative record, sponsoring almost no major bills that became law. He has one of the worst attendance records in the New York Congressional delegation, having missed more than 1,300 votes. He has shown no leadership …” on issues of importance to his district.

There are many reasons to maintain a longstanding incumbent in the House of Representatives. But in Mr. Lewis’ opinion, Rep. Engel should not continue, and term limits should be imposed upon incumbents. Valid arguments can be made on both sides of the term limit issue. But in the instant case, the issue is secondary to learning whether or not the charges against Rep. Engel are valid. 

And what would Mr. Lewis do differently from Rep. Engel?  Some of what he believes that he can accomplish seem a bit naïve, so I would like some concrete proposals from him as well.

We need to hear substantive details from both the challenger and the incumbent. Perhaps The Riverdale Press would like to inquire of both candidates?

Vivian Oleen,