By Raanan Geberer
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
The Charles Barron-Hakeem Jeffries Congressional race in the new 8th Congressional District took a bizarre turn on Friday in response to an endorsement by former Ku Klux Klan leader and white supremacist David Duke.
In a video posted on YouTube, Duke said that although he had issues with the two candidates — both of them black — he would rather have a black candidate who is “a dedicated anti-Zionist,” meaning Barron, than one who is “a complete Zionist sellout,” meaning Jeffries.
The Democratic primary is on Tuesday, June 26.
Barron, a city councilman, has equated Israel’s actions during the Gaza campaign with Nazi actions in occupied Europe during World War II, and called Israel “the biggest terrorist in the world.”
A spokeswoman for Barron’s campaign refused to discuss Duke's remarks. Duke’s "not a constituent," she said.
The Duke statement appeared to attract more support to Jeffries, a state assemblyman.
On Thursday, Sen. Charles Schumer, a Park Slope resident, backed Jeffries, calling him “a true-blue friend of Israel.” Gov. Andrew Cuomo also declared his support for Jeffries. And the Emergency Committee for Israel produced an anti-Barron commercial.
Barron has also been criticized for his position on same-sex marriage. In a 2011 interview with the Capital NY blog, he said he didn’t consider it “the civil rights issue of our time" and said that he opposed same-sex marriage.
In response to mounting criticisms, Barron and his supporters held a “Stand by Your Man” rally at City Hall on Friday. According to the spokeswoman, retiring Rep. Ed Towns, who has endorsed Barron, got “caught up in traffic.” Councilman Diana Reyna attended, as did some members of District Council 37.
Jeffries spokeswoman Lupe Todd said Jeffries "is very confident and ready for primary day. The assemblyman has been very effective, not only in his district, in issues of concern to the residents.”
Todd added, “We denounce David Duke’s remarks in its entirety, and urge the other candidate in the race to do so as well.”
“I think the assemblyman is a friend to the state of Israel, while his opponent has been the opposite. He has always supported gay rights and marriage equality and is against the the Defense of Marriage Act, while his opponent is the opposite.”
The 8th Congressional District now combines such southeastern Brooklyn areas as Cararsie with central Brooklyn areas such as East New York, Bedford-Stuyvesant and Fort Greene.
7th District race
In the new 7th Congressional District, Rep. Nydia Velazquez is facing her most serious contest since she first went to Congress in 1992.
Her three opponents are Councilman Erik Martin Dilan (D-Bushwick/East New York), who is endorsed by Kings County Democratic Party Chair Vito Lopez; economist Dan O’Connor, who spent six years in China and is strong in the Asian community; and Pace University adjunct professor George Martinez, a supporter of Occupy Wall Street.
A spokeswoman for Velazquez says the congresswoman thinks her chances are good, and that she’s “well-known and well-liked” in the district.
Velazquez, added the spokeswoman, is a strong advocate for ethnic minorities and immigrants: She has demanded justice for Pvt. Danny Chen, who reportedly killed himself in Afghanistan after suffering constant anti-Asian abuse; and she waged a successful campaign to stop the deportation of Sara Martinez, the Ecuador-born mother of a 6-year-old American citizen.
Councilman Dilan also thinks his chances are very good, says Dilan spokesman Graham Parker.
“There’s very good feedback when we go door-to-door, and he has a very good message on the ground,” said Parker.
People now have a chance to compare Dilan’s record with Velazquez’s, he said, and they’re finding out that “he really cares about the issues, and that he’s been in there, fighting for the communities.” Parker also said that people in the district know Dilan and his progressive principles.
Matt McInerney, spokesman for O’Connor, said O’Connor will win 25 percent of the vote, “and I think he will win the primary.”
As for Martinez, he told the Eagle, “I think I’ll do far better than what local pollsters would like to believe. I believe we have as good a shot as anyone.”
On the subject of Velazquez, he said, “I think the product of a broken system [Washington politics] has a limited ability to push a really progressive agenda.”
The new 7th C.D. includes most of Brownstone Brooklyn, parts of Bushwick and Hasidic Wiliamsburg; Manhattan’s Chinatown and parts of Queens.