Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Tight Brooklyn, NY Congressional Race

African American Political Pundit says: How is it that N.Y. City Councilman David Yassky has raised over $1.4 million to run for a Brooklyn congressional seat that has had African-American representation since it was claimed in the mid-1960s by black political pioneer Shirley Chisholm? Who is bank rolling his campaign? These and other issues should cause African-American voters to pause and take a look at all the candidates as they vote in this election.

Yahoo News reports Four high-profile Democrats are running in the Sept. 12 primary to succeed veteran New York Democratic Rep. Major R. Owens (news, bio, voting record) in Brooklyn’s 11th Congressional District. And they have set up a race so tight that even local political insiders are loathe to predict a winner.

State Sen. Carl Andrews, New York City Council members Yvette Clarke and David Yassky, and political activist Chris Owens, the congressman’s son, are competing for a seat that could provide the winner with lifetime job security.

The district, in which three-fifths of the residents are black and a total of roughly four-fifths are minorities, is a Democratic stronghold. Three out of four voters consider themselves Democrats: Party presidential nominee

John Kerry
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John Kerry received 86 percent of the district’s vote in 2004, and incumbent Owens, in the last of his 12 House victories, took 94 percent and had no Republican opponent.

The four would-be successors in many ways reflect the diversity of the district itself, which encompasses areas of Brooklyn including middle- and working-class communities such as Crown Heights, Flatbush and Brownsville, as well the increasingly “gentrified” neighborhood of Park Slope:

Yassky has drawn much attention, and perhaps caused the biggest stir, as the only white candidate running for a seat that has had African-American representation since it was claimed in the mid-1960s by black political pioneer Shirley Chisholm. Despite criticism from some black activists, Yassky pursues a liberal agenda that he says should appeal to district voters regardless of race.

Clarke’s political heritage, after succeeding her mother, Una Clarke, on the City Council, gives her deep ties within the political community that supplement her voter base in her council district. Clarke set the stage for this campaign by challenging the elder Owens in the 2004 primary, holding the incumbent to a 45 percent to 29 percent edge in the four-candidate race.

Andrews represents half of the congressional district in the state Senate and is well-connected to top state Democrats, including Attorney General Eliot Spitzer, the likely Democratic nominee and general election favorite for governor.

Chris Owens, a former campaign manager for his father, predicts his background as a private-sector businessman, his political activism, and district voters’ fondness for the incumbent will propel him to the front of the pack next Tuesday.

“You’ve got the interaction of geography and demography. You’ve got three black candidates, you’ve got overlapping districts ... and you’ve got the various institutional supports. It’s very difficult to figure out which way the vote’s moving,” political science professor Doug Muzzio of Baruch College, a part of the City University of New York, told

The consensus among analysts, though not an overwhelming one, is that if there is a top tier in the field, it is composed of Clarke and Yassky.

Clarke differentiates herself as the only woman in the race. As the daughter of Caribbean immigrants, she also connects with one of the two major ethnic groups among black voters in the 11th District. She succeeded her mother (who challenged Major Owens in the 2000 House primary) in the 40th District City Council seat in 2001 and was re-elected to the seat twice, the second time just last year.

Yassky, who last week picked up the endorsement of the New York Times, is by far the best-funded of the candidates. According to the candidates’ pre-primary filings with the

Federal Election Commission
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Federal Election Commission, Yassky had $360,000 in cash on hand as of Aug. 23 out of $1.4 million raised. Andrews raised the second-most money with $543,000 in total receipts, but heavy spending left him last in cash reserves with $32,000. Clarke had $76,000 left in her coffers out of $398,000 raised, and Owens had $64,000 out of $351,000 raised. More>>>


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