Parker, Stewart and Felder Have a Debate About Identity

A raucous debate infused with racial tension took place last night in Brooklyn between Democratic State Senator Kevin Parker and his two primary opponents, term-limited City Council members Kendall Stewart and Simcha Felder.

Each candidate is representative of one of three major demographic voting blocs in the district–Felder is an Orthodox Jew, Stewart is a Caribbean immigrant and Parker is African-American–that sometimes clash over issues like immigration.

During the part of the debate when the candidates questioned each other, Stewart began by welcoming Felder to “this side” of the district–ostensibly a note about geography, but also a reference to his Council district, which is demographically much different.

Stewart went on: “What promises did the Republican Mayor Mike Bloomberg make to you, a supposed Democrat, to get into this race? And do you think Caribbean people can be bought?”

(Reminder, for the record: The mayor is no longer enrolled in any party.)

Felder, after a little joking, said people shouldn’t be bought. Then he asked, “How many years have you been living in Brooklyn, Dr. Stewart?” Both Felder and Parker have lived in Brooklyn their entire lives, while Stewart was born on the Caribbean island of St. Vincent.

The remark drew cheers from the crowd and a high five from Parker.

Stewart turned to Parker next and asked if the reason the senator missed 323 votes in Albany is because he was attending anger-management classes–which Parker actually was required to take after he was accused of assaulting a traffic officer in 2005.

Parker said he missed the votes because his father and uncle passed away.

“Being angry is not against the law, Dr. Stewart,” he said, then invoked Stewart’s connection to the City Council slush-fund scandal, which resulted in the arrest of two of Stewart’s aides. “But having a slush fund where your staff is stealing the money, however–that is against the law.”

More cheers from the crowd.

The event was organized by a local church on Glenwood Road. Parker said he’s been a member there for decades. The audience, according to a few people I spoke with, was mostly volunteers and supporters already aligned with one campaign or another.

Parker, Stewart and Felder Have a Debate About Identity