White congressional candidate faces tough going in predominantly black district
In a race dominated by controversy over whether he should even be running for Congress, David Yassky tried to shift the debate Tuesday. The Brooklyn City Councilman received endorsements from gun control advocates and the mother of slain Councilman James Davis.
“If he is able to get to Congress we will be able to get these laws passed," said Thelma Davis.
“The reason why I wanted you to hear from these leaders is to underscore what is at stake in a Congressional election," said Yassky.
But for his critics, what is at stake are the tenets of the Voting Rights Act. While flanked by three African-Americans on the steps of City Hall, Yassky has received a less than warm welcome from Democratic leaders in the district, one that is roughly 60 percent black.
The district has had an African-American representative since 1968, when Shirley Chisolm became the first black woman elected to Congress. But now that Major Owens is retiring after nearly 25 years, the seat's up for grabs.
"I have problems with it, and I think the black community takes issue with it," said Brooklyn City Councilman Al Vann.
Yassky's been labeled a carpetbagger, a colonist, and a political opportunist for dropping out of the race for Brooklyn District Attorney and then moving three blocks into Owens’ district at the beginning of the campaign.
He's running against three other candidates for the seat: Chris Owens, who wants to follow his father to Washington; City Councilwoman Yvette Clark, and State Senator Carl Andrews.
"It's arithmetic: There are three very competent black aspirants for Congress," said Vann.
Three aspirants who could conceivably split the black vote and help Yassky get elected. And none of them sounds like they're ready to step out of the race.
“The reality is he has no record in this area,” said Chris Owens. “He's not known by people in the district, as opposed to someone like me who grew up and lived in many different neighborhoods within the district."
But Yassky says the race should be about competence, not racial identity.
“In every part of this district people want to see a member of Congress who's going to fight for gun control, fight for better healthcare, fight for better jobs, for cleaner air, for better schools,” said Yassky. “That is what people in this district want, and I am determined to get there and do it."
But exactly how he gets there is in question, too. Yassky's far out fund-raised the other candidates. Most of the money hasn't been spent yet, meaning that the district will be hearing a lot from him this summer.
They back Yassky
Rev. Al to Oxonians: Yassky "Cynical," 2008 Dems Absent on Poverty
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