Members of New York City’s Congressional delegation, long relegated to the sidelines of local politics, are increasingly filling the void left by the declining influence of political party apparatchiks.
Nowhere is this more apparent than in Brooklyn, home to Democratic mayoral hopeful Bill de Blasio and his GOP rival Joe Lhota, as well as public advocate runoff contenders Letitia James and Daniel Squadron. The latest trend from the borough of hipsters, Hasidim and Caribbean homelands is the toppling of incumbents with the help of U.S. Representatives Hakeem Jeffries and Nydia Velázquez.
Standing under a canopy of umbrellas as rain crashed down around them, Congressman Hakeem Jeffries formally endorsed Bill Thompson this afternoon–further helping to solidify institutional black support behind Mr. Thompson’s quest to become the city’s next mayor.
The Fort Greene press conference was billed as an opportunity for Mr. Jeffires to endorse the former city comptroller’s educational agenda, but instead focused on the issue of the day: stop-and-frisk.
Mr. Thompson opposes two high-profile police reform bills that are being pushed through today by the City Council. While Mr. Jeffries said he supports the bills, he argued Mr. Thompson had taken the right stance, given his role.
A jury of his peers may have found George Zimmerman innocent, but–many miles away from the Sanford, Florida case–New York City lawmakers aren’t done with the controversy
The city’s congressional delegation gathered this afternoon in Lower Manhattan to condemn the trial’s verdict, while at the same time, praising the Department of Justice’s willingness to investigate the killing of 17-year-old Trayon Martin.
“The families should know, while they’ve lost their dear son, they’ve gained a groundswell of Americans who really want us to do the right thing,” said Congressman Charlie Rangel, the senior member of the delegation. “There’s no place that a young black male can go without carrying the additional burden of being a black male.”
Adriano Espaillat could not go a single day without a text message, email or phone call from a mayoral campaign operative eager to tout his or her candidate’s momentum. His last name doesn’t carry the weight of a Clinton or Cuomo, but the Manhattan state senator was like Helen of Troy to the many political strategists and surrogates clashing in the most competitive Democratic mayoral primary in more than a decade.
“At the beginning, it felt special. Now it’s very taxing,” Mr. Espaillat told Politicker of the lobbying efforts in the days before making up his mind. “I get phone calls, text messages, emails. I get surrogates calling constantly, union leaders, activists and even friends I know, personal friends involved in the campaigns.”
“They call every day. Every single day,” he marveled.
Congress members Hakeem Jeffries and Yvette Clarke today endorsed Ken Thompson in the Brooklyn District Attorney’s race, lending two big names to Mr. Thompson’s challenge against the long-time incumbent, Charles Hynes.
“We need new leadership in the Brooklyn DA’s office that will take on tough cases and not run the other way,” Mr. Thompson, an attorney, said at a Brooklyn Borough Hall press conference this afternoon.
“We clearly need new leadership that’s based on a DA that is tough but fair, that will fight for justice,” he added, likely referencing various controversies Mr. Hynes’s office has faced handling certain criminal cases. “As Brooklyn DA, I will not only fight against crime or corruption, wherever it exists, I will make sure that every case is investigated and prosecuted with integrity so that justice prevails.”
Months into his first term, his short time in Washington D.C. has Congressman Hakeem Jeffries convinced the Tea Party is out of control.
In The House
Now that he’s arrived on Capitol Hill, freshman Congressman Hakeem Jeffries has been appointed to the Budget Committee. The Budget Committee is chaired by Paul Ryan and, in an email to supporters announcing the appointment, his campaign sounded rather excited about the possibility for Mr. Jeffries to directly tangle with the former Republican vice presidential candidate.
“I have some important news. Congressman Jeffries was recently appointed to the powerful Budget Committee. This committee will again be chaired by Rep. Paul Ryan, and therefore be the battleground in the fight to preserve social security, Medicare and Medicaid,” the email said. “Congressman Jeffries will fight hard to save these programs.”
Charles in Charge
Charles Barron, the bombastic Brooklyn councilman who lost a contentious congressional primary to Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries this summer, now has his eye on the city’s second highest elected office–Public Advocate. Mr. Barron, who will be term-limited out of his current seat next year, is also, as has long been speculated, considering running for the assembly seat currently held by his wife, Inez, who may campaign to succeed her husband in the City Council. If Ms. Barron were successful in that effort, a special election would be held to replace her position in the State Legislature.
A tipster informed Politicker Mr. Barron has recently made a round of calls to test the waters for a potential Public Advocate run. When we reached the councilman today, he confirmed he has been discussing the possibility with members of his “inner circle.”
“I’ve been talking to my inner circle about it, but I haven’t been making calls outside of my inner circle,” Mr. Barron said of a possible campaign for Public Advocate. “I’m definitely considering that and also considering, you know, my wife is considering a run for the City Council and I’m considering her seat as well. Those two things we definitely have open.”
Last Thursday, Walter Mosley was elected to succeed Hakeem Jeffries in Brooklyn’s 57th Assembly District. Mr. Mosley was supported by Mr. Jeffries, who left the seat to run a successful congressional campaign, and the race was largely seen as a referendum on Mr. Jeffries’ ability to deliver for another candidate in his Central Brooklyn base. Politicker sat down with Mr. Jeffries yesterday to get his post-game analysis on Mr. Mosley’s campaign and the endorsements that didn’t go their way. Mr. Jeffries also talked about his plans for moving to Washington, his thoughts on the future of the Brooklyn Democratic Party in the wake of the Vito Lopez scandal and discussed ringing the opening bell at NASDAQ on the first anniversary of the Occupy Wall Street protests.
Hakeem Jeffries isn’t officially a congressman yet, but the rising Democratic Party star is already facing the first major test of his political power since he won the Democratic primary for New York’s 8th Congressional District June 26. With that victory, Mr. Jeffries virtually guaranteed himself a ticket to Washington to represent the overwhelmingly Democratic Brooklyn district following the general election in November. However, there is still the matter of who will replace Mr. Jeffries in the State Assembly seat he vacated to pursue his congressional campaign. Mr. Jeffries is backing District Leader Walter Mosley to succeed him in the 57th Assembly District, but Mr. Mosley has two tough opponents in that race today and insiders are keeping a close eye on the contest to see whether Mr. Jeffries can deliver his old district to his chosen heir.
“I know all three candidates, but I’ve worked closely with Walter over the last six years that I’ve been in the Legislature. We’ve worked on a wide variety of issues of significance,” Mr. Jeffries told Politicker this afternoon. “He’s been there as a close ally to help improve the quality of the public schools in the neighborhood, fight to stand up for senior citizens, to reform the NYPD’s stop-and-frisk practices, fighting with me to create and preserve affordable housing. On every single issue of significance, Walter Mosley has been there. There are going to be some very important issues to be decided in the State Legislature moving forward and I have the greatest degree of confidence in Walter that he can continue the work that needs to be done on behalf of the people in this wonderful community.