By Henrik Krogius
There really is no serious choice.
Come next Tuesday, June 26, Democratic voters in the new 7th Congressional District should endorse Nydia Velazquez for a return to Congress.
For the first time in 20 years she is facing a primary challenge — from not just one but three would-be usurpers. The new district in which the contest takes place differs somewhat from the old 12th C.D. that she has represented, and her challengers are obviously hoping that the demographic shift helps them. The new district revises the areas she represented in Queens and cuts out Greenpoint, while increasing coverage of Williamsburg, Brooklyn Heights, Cobble Hill, Boerum Hill, Carroll Gardens, Park Slope and Sunset Park, as well as taking in Manhattan’s Chinatown and Lower East Side, and adding neighborhoods in eastern Brooklyn.
Velazquez’s three challengers include one backed by what is left of the Brooklyn Democratic party machine — that’s Erik Martin Dilan — and two independent candidates. Bay Ridge-based Dan O’Connor, an economist with Libertarian leanings who speaks both Mandarin and Cantonese, seems to be counting on the redrawn district’s increased number of Asian voters to give him the needed boost. The third challenger, George Martinez, a Pace University adjunct professor who has been active in the Occupy Wall Street movement, aims his appeal to a youth vote in the expectation that the young will support his ideas for a radical overhaul of the American political system.
The one challenger with any significant financial and organizational backing is Dilan, a city councilman pushed by Brooklyn Democratic Party leader Vito Lopez, who wants to expand his control over Brooklyn politics and has battled Velazquez before, especially in siding with one Hasidic faction in Williamsburg over another.
The Dilan campaign has clearly been outspending all others through several mailings, a glossy flier last week proclaiming “Real Issues .... Real Solutions.” It fails to mention a single issue or a single proposed solution, counting rather on its polished look to seduce voters. On the reverse side it presents an excerpt from a “ballot” with Dilan’s name, including its Chinese characters, prominently circled in red. The other names on the “ballot” are blurry, but one can clearly see that they are not the actual names of his opponents — “Natalia Vargas” coming the closest to Nydia Velazquez.
Against Dilan’s obfuscating campaign and the anti-establishment broadsides of O’Connor and Martinez stands the fact that Velazquez has been, and continues to be, one of the most effective members of Congress, often finding ways around the rancorous party split there to win benefits for the neighborhoods she represents.
As she points out, in the course of her career she has had 23 legislative proposals signed into law, or an average of 2.6 per Congress. Given that there are 435 members of the House, this is a very impressive record of accomplishment. She won Superfund designations for the cleanup of both the Gowanus Canal and Newtown Creek. She has also been a strong and influential friend to the development of Brooklyn Bridge Park. On the national side she helped pass legislation giving young immigrants the chance to win legal status by pursuing an education.
The one big risk to Velazquez is voter apathy in the face of a Lopez-orchestrated turnout. So, be mindful that Nydia Velazquez needs that you get out and vote on Primary Day, June 26.
Dennis Holt and politicians
Not brought out in last week’s sad remembrances of Dennis Holt was his generally sympathetic view toward those who hold elected office.
Dennis was not one to tar all politicians as shallow opportunists devoid of principle. He understood the pressures of office very well, having served as community liaison to the respected Congressman Stephen Solarz.
There are various factions within communities, and an official is under pressure from different sides within the constituency she or he represents. Government proceeds, if it does, not simply by forging compromises between great regional interests but also by politicians threading their way through conflicts back home. It is the true leader who can stake out a truly principled, but not universally backed position and yet survive.
In conversations not long before Holt’s fatal accident, he unhesitatingly supported Nydia Velazquez as the kind of politician who works for the greater good, as against the factional and power-hungry politics he saw embodied in Vito Lopez.
The fair-mindedness of Dennis (even toward some Republican politicians) is another quality for which we so sorely miss him. At times he voiced very strong opinions, but when he did, they grew out of his having studied the issues involved and weighing opposing merits.
Henrik Krogius is editor of the Brooklyn Heights Press