On a night in which congressional incumbents across the city fended off primary challengers but emerged victorious, Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries won a sweeping victory over Councilman Charles Barron, signaling a new era in Brooklyn politics.
“The political pundits said that this was going to be a close race, but that was before the people had spoken,” Mr. Jeffries told a packed crowd of several hundred people at Sanders Studio in Clinton Hill. “The people spoke with one loud voice and that’s why we’re going to Washington.”
In his victory speech, Mr. Jeffries sounded like something of a Brooklyn version of Barack Obama–an elected official he is often compared with. He spoke of Abraham Lincoln, of reconciliation, of bringing people together from across the district, of ending racism, anti-semitism, homophobia, and of bringing bold solutions to the ills of urban America. He spoke of better public schools and more affordable yeshivas. The district that Mr. Jeffries hopes to represent–his election in November is all but a formality–had been represented for 30 years by Congressman Ed Towns, who, before leaving, backed Mr. Barron, thumbing his nose at the Democratic establishment that had gathered on the stage behind Mr. Jeffries.
In his place, Mr. Jeffries signalled a generational shift, entering and exiting the stage to the music of Jay-Z as New York pols swarmed to get their picture taken with him.
In the audience at Sanders Studio was a broad cross section of the 8th Congressional district, which represents most of Central Brooklyn. Campaign volunteers from areas as far apart as East New York and Brighton Beach bragged how badly the Jeffries campaign had beaten Mr. Barron, and the victory was decisive, with Mr. Jeffries leading by as much as 50 percent at last count. The vote comes after a number of news stories over the last several days said that Mr. Barron was “surging” buoyed by Mr. Towns’ endorsement.
Mr. Jeffries and Mr. Barron have been eyeing each other for years, each representing different strains of of black politics–Mr Jeffries that of the Obama generation, Mr. Barron that of an older, more radical form of black politics.
Afterwards, Mr. Jeffries was peppered with questions about whether or not he had heard from Mr. Barron. And he was asked what his victory meant.
“All across the congressional district, people came together to select the candidate that they concluded was serious about doing the business of the people,” he said. “I talked about how individuals like Adam Clayton Powell and Shirley Chisolm could both speak truth to power–which is necessary–but also get things accomplished legislatively. Those were my models of success at the congressional level.”
And he was asked again about Mr. Barron, He said he didn’t know if his opponent had called to congratulate him yet, but he didn’t care.
“I have to answer enough Charles Barron questions over the past year. I am looking forward to not answering any more Charles Barron questions any more.”