A few months after the new Congressional lines were finalized, South Queens residents in Howard Beach and Ozone Park are now faced with the decision of which Brooklyn politician to elect for representation in the new 8th Congressional District.
Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries (D-Brooklyn) is running in the Democratic primary against Councilman Charles Barron (D-Brooklyn) for the seat being vacated by U.S. Rep. Ed Towns, who announced in April that he would not seek re-election after 30 years in Congress.
The South Queens neighborhoods were configured into the Brooklyn-heavy Congressional district in March, much to the dismay of civic leaders and residents who felt the moves were unfair.
Barron was quick to downplay the idea that the areas of Queens in the district would be an afterthought if he won the election.
“By no means whatsoever,” he says. “There’s no way Queens would be forgotten.”
Jeffries, too, said inheriting the Queens communities would not be an issue.
“I look forward to providing representation to everyone regardless of their racial, socioeconomic and religious diversity,” Jeffries said.
Both candidates also expressed why they would excel in representing the communities.
“There’s nothing unique in the problems of any of the boroughs,” Barron says. “They all have similar issues and as a City Council member, I addressed city-wide issues that concerned Queens.”
Said Jeffries: “The inclusion of the Howard Beach waterfront with the entire Brooklyn waterfront will be a benefit because it will now be in the same area of representation and I’ve worked to develop a close relationship with the U.S. Department of the Interior.”
While both candidates are from Brooklyn, their political styles contrast greatly.
Barron, a former Black Panther, is known for his staunch belief in affirmative action and dislike of capitalism.
As chairman of the Higher Education Committee, Barron spearheaded the restoration of more than $10 million for City University of New York students.
Jeffries has compiled a record of legislative achievements including his work on the Middle Class Tax Relief Act of 2012.
Barron, however, is not overly impressed.
“My opponent cannot compare with my accomplishments,” Barron says. “My opponent cannot even come close. We need experience and a proven track record.”
Barron has won the support of DC 37, the largest union of city workers, and earlier this month Towns endorsed him as well.
“While [Towns and I] were opponents, we were not enemies,” Barron says. “We worked together to save two senior centers. I wasn’t surprised; he wanted the best for his district.”
Speaking as just a private citizen and a registered Democratic voter and not on behalf of the board, Community Board 10 Chairwoman Betty Braton said she supports Jeffries.
“He’s the better choice,” Braton said. “One thing I like about Jeffries is that he has reached out to the community about what the issues are.”
The winner of the June 26 primary will be pitted against Republican Alan Bellone, who is unopposed in his party.
“I’m not at all happy that the courts put a piece of Queens in a district that is overwhelmingly Brooklyn,” Braton said. “At this point we have to work with who is elected despite it.”