Maneuvering around hundreds of fans waving red, white and blue campaign signs, Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries (D-Brooklyn) made his way through a sea of volunteers, politicians and press on Tuesday night and declared victory over Councilman Charles Barron (D-Brooklyn) in the Democratic primary race for the new 8th Congressional District, which includes parts of South Queens.
“You know, the political pundits said this was going to be a close race, but that was before the people had spoken,” Jeffries said at his campaign party in Fort Greene on Tuesday evening.
According to unofficial results, Jeffries garnered about 72 percent of the vote in the district that was recently redrawn to cover Howard Beach and Ozone Park, while Barron landed 28 percent.
Jeffries now faces a Republican challenger in November’s general election, Brooklyn businessman Alan Bellone.
Howard Beach and Ozone Park have been situated in the 9th Congressional District, represented by U.S. Rep. Bob Turner (R-Queens, Brooklyn). During the redistricting process, when state legislators are tasked with redrawing the political lines for Assembly, state Senate and Congressional districts once every 10 years, Turner’s district was one of two in the state to be axed — a byproduct of the U.S. Census reporting New York’s population had not grown as much as in other states. Now, Howard Beach and Ozone Park are drawn into the same district as such neighborhoods as Bed-Stuy and Coney Island.
The councilman had yet to call Jeffries to concede as of late Tuesday night, and, according to other published reports, said he was not going to because of “the way the campaign was run.”
While Barron landed the endorsement of U.S. Rep. Ed Towns (D-Brooklyn), who now represents much of the area in the new 8th Congressional District — though he covers no parts of Queens — Jeffries received the backing of numerous borough legislators, including U.S. Rep. Joe Crowley (D-Queens, Bronx) and state Sen. Joe Addabbo Jr. (D-Howard Beach). A number of political heavyweights came to support Jeffries on Tuesday night, including mayoral candidate and former city Comptroller Bill Thompson, Council Speaker Christine Quinn (D-Manhattan) and Public Advocate Bill de Blasio.
“With Hakeem, we’ll have a chance to change the culture in Washington, which is just toxic,” Thompson said.
The Democratic mayoral candidate added that his support for Jeffries was “not about a no to Charles, but a yes to Hakeem.”
While Barron had told the Queens Chronicle that he would focus on South Queens, his background as a former Black Panther who has made racially incendiary comments drew concern from residents in the area. In a 2008 Daily News article about a Queens jury dropping charges against a white Howard Beach man who had allegedly threatened to torch his black neighbor’s house in 2007, Barron was quoted as saying, “there are enough racists in Howard Beach already — they don’t need a signal from the DA to think it’s OK to hate black people.”
Jeffries said he hopes to work to bridge divides throughout his district, calling it “this gorgeous mosaic of the 8th District.”
“It was 150 years ago that Abraham Lincoln pondered the question, how we create a more perfect union?” Jeffries said Tuesday night. “… Since that moment we’ve made tremendous progress, but I think we can still ask the question — how do we create a more perfect union? There’s still racism, still homophobia.”
When endorsed by Queens Democrats two weeks ago outside Cross Bay Diner in Howard Beach, Jeffries said he would not forget about the Queens neighborhoods that make up a small portion of his district.
“What I’ve found is there are issues that unite people,” Jeffries said at the press conference. “… Everybody cares about good schools. Everybody cares about a return to a strong economy.”