By Raanan Geberer
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Tuesday’s landslide victories in Brooklyn’s two high-profile Democratic congressional primaries — Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries in the 8th Congressional District and Rep. Nydia Velazquez in the 7th C.D. — surprised few politicos, despite a fair amount of hype in the news media.
It was the victory of the safe, in the case of Jeffries, and of the familiar, in the case of Velazquez, a 20-year incumbent.
According to the NYC Board of Elections, as of yesterday afternoon, Jeffries had won approximately 73 percent of the vote, or 25,880 votes, while Velazquez won approximately 58 percent of the vote, or 16,415 votes.
The race between Jeffries (D-Fort Greene/Bedford-Stuyvesant) and Councilman Charles Barron (D-East New York) was closely watched because Barron alarmed many onlookers with his comments about Israel — for example, he called Israel a “terrorist state” and likened Gaza to a concentration camp — and his lack of support for gay rights.
Barron’s attitude toward Israel was highlighted in a bizarre way when former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke endorsed Barron, saying, "In a race for Congress between an anti-Zionist black activist and a black activist who is a bought and paid for by Zionist Uncle Tom, I'll take the anti-Zionist any day."
Barron refused to discuss these issues during the campaign and he garnered only 27 percent of the vote, or 19,090 votes.
Assemblyman Dov Hikind (D-Borough Park) was one of several Jewish political leaders from southern Brooklyn who held an anti-Barron rally in early June. Yesterday, he told the Brooklyn Eagle, “All the diverse communities in the district — Russian, Jewish, black — came together. Hakeem is a star, a real mensch, and his opponent was a bad guy.”
Jeffries, in a statement, said, "This gorgeous mosaic of the 8th Congressional District, representing people of all persuasions and races and religions, came together to support this campaign.”
The Daily News reported that on election night, Barron refused to congratulate Jeffries on his win, pointing out that Jeffries, a fellow African-American, had refused to come to Barron’s defense against charges of anti-Semitism. Barron did not return calls from the Eagle yesterday.
In the 7th C.D. race, Velazquez was the beneficiary of the well-known “power of incumbency,” despite the fact that one of her rivals, Councilman Erik Martin Dilan (D-Bushwick/Brownsville) is also a familiar figure, having served in the City Council since 2002.
During the campaign, Velazquez often attacked Assemblyman Vito Lopez, the Brooklyn Democratic Party leader, saying he was supporting Dilan as a way of consolidating political power. According to The New York Times, Lopez wasn’t too complimentary of Velazquez either: “I’ve never been supportive of her,” he said.
Yesterday, Graham Parker, a spokesman for Dilan, said the whole issue had been overplayed.
“Councilman Dilan ran his own campaign with his own staff, emphasizing his own issues,” said Parker. “He ran it out of his own office, not out of the county leader’s office.”
In the future, he added, Dilan, as a councilman, will push for the same issues he advocated as a congressional candidate.
Dan O’Connor, another one of the three candidates who ran against Velazquez, said that the result “shows how difficult it is for an outsider to crack the power of the Brooklyn Democratic machine.” He added that as far as he was concerned, both Velazquez and Dilan are part of that machine.
“The whole system is geared to 'scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours.' There were so many local leaders who owed Velazquez favors,” he said.
“But I’m not attacking Velazquez as a person,” said the libertarian-leaning O’Connor. “The whole political system has to be changed.”
George Martinez, the fourth candidate, said, “Even with 1 percent of Velazquez’ budget and none of her corporate contributions, we got 3 percent of the vote during a two-month campaign.”
Martinez, a supporter of Occupy Wall Street, said one of the main accomplishments of his campaign was to spread Occupy’s ideas. “During the campaign, even Velazquez started to use `99 percent’ rhetoric,” he said.
Of Velazquez’ three challengers, Dilan received 9,077 votes, approximately 32 percent of the total; O’Connor received 2,082, about 7 percent; and Martinez received 758, about 3 percent.
Velazquez, in a statement, said, “I'm honored the working families of New York have placed their confidence in me again. Together, we can continue our work to make housing more affordable, strengthen local small businesses and create jobs throughout our city."