Brooklyn Assemblyman Charles Barron today told the Observer that he will not seek the State Senate seat left vacant in July after the conviction of former State Senator John Sampson—at least, not this year.
In a phone interview, the Black Panther-turned-“elected activist” said that, after much deliberation with his political organization Operation P.O.W.E.R., he had decided he would be more effective in the Democrat-dominated Assembly than in the Republican-run State Senate. The former councilman pointed to what he saw as “progress” during his first six months in the Assembly: the ex-Speaker Sheldon Silver‘s fall from power amid corruption charges, the rise of new Speaker Carl Heastie—the first black person to hold the position—and the passage of bills related to missing persons and excavation.
“We in Operation P.O.W.E.R. think we are best off in the position we are currently in,” Mr. Barron said, arguing that he must have the best pulpit possible to take on both Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio. “The governor is a disaster, the mayor is a pseudo-progressive, and we need that voice and I think it can be best articulated and heard in the State Assembly.”
Mr. Sampson had to leave the seat—which covers both predominantly black areas like East New York and Canarsie, as well as predominantly white ones like Mill Basin, Bergen Beach and Sheepshead Bay—after he was found guilty of having lied to federal agents involved in an embezzlement probe and for threatening to “take out” witnesses who might testify against him. Mr. Cuomo is expected to call a special election for November.
Mr. Barron, a Democrat known for clashing with members of his own party, promised he would continue to be the same radical that drew headlines for inviting Zimbabwean dictator Robert Mugabe to City Hall, calling Thomas Jefferson a “rapist” and a “pedophile” and for adamantly backing the Palestinian cause against Israel in the Middle East. He also left open the possibility of running for the seat in the regular election cycle in 2016, when many expect the Democrats will win a majority of seats in the State Senate.
“We’re still trying to build a mass movement so people can rise up. We’re going to keep fighting against the capitalist system, which is based on systemic racism and oppression,” he said. “I may make another decision next September, depending on how the politics shake out.”
The assemblyman said he would take the next few weeks to meet with prospective candidates before making an endorsement.
Kings County Democratic Party Chairman Frank Seddio and his allies hold most of the seats on the county committee, the elected panel of party insiders charged with selecting a candidate in special elections. Mr. Barron’s Operation P.O.W.E.R., however, controls a substantial bloc on the committee.
Insiders say Mr. Seddio is backing freshman Assemblywoman Roxanne Persaud for the seat, though former congressional staffer and activist Samuel Pierre and ex-Council candidate Mercedes Narcisse are also seeking the nomination.