Bed-Stuy is Battleground Neighborhood in 8th Congressional District
BEDFORD-STUYVESANT — For Brooklyn's newly-formed 8th Congressional District, this is Ohio.
The fight for Tuesday's contentious Democratic primary nomination, which pits party darling Hakeem Jeffries against the populist champion and local activist Charles Barron, could come down to a block-by-block battle for just three neighborhoods: Canarsie, Coney Island and Bedford-Stuyvesant.
"It's always been my view that Bedford-Stuyvesant, Canarsie and Coney Island are the Ohio, Pennyslvania and Florida for the 8th Congressional District," said Jeffries, as he greeted supporters outside Bed Vyne Wines on Tompkins Avenue in Bed-Stuy Thursday evening.
Barron, who stumped on home turf in East New York Wednesday night, is famous as much for his impassioned public service as a longtime city councilman as for his colorful activist past — including a stint in the Black Panthers — and his take-no-prisoners rhetoric.
"I think it's our ground game that gave us credibility in the beginning," Barron told DNAinfo.com New York. "When you look around the world and you see revolutions around the world and people rising up around the world demanding their fair share from government, I think we bring that potential to massively organize and mobilize people in districts across the country, to put the kind of pressure on Congress and the presidency to do the right thing by the 99 percent."
His staunch positions on entitlements and the rights of the working poor won him endorsements from departing Rep. Edolphus Towns, as well as from one of the city's largest labor unions.
But Barron's vociferous pronouncements against Israel, his vocal support of leftist dictators from Fidel Castro to Moammar Gadhafi, as well as his proud dismissal of that holy grail of Obama-era politics, bipartisanship, have made him a polarizing figure for many.
"People put too much into bipartisan support. It was bipartisan support that got us the Iraq War. It was bipartisan support that got us the Welfare Reform bill that ended welfare as an entitlement program. It was bipartisan support that got us this health care reform that doesn’t give us a public option," Barron told an enthusiastic crowd in East New York Wednesday night.
"Bipartisanship didn’t get us the Civil Rights Act. Martin Luther King and the Civil Rights Movement and riots and Malcolm X and America burning up got us that act. It was the movement that brought that to bear in this nation."
That might get applause on New Lots Avenue, but won't play well on Ocean Parkway.
The challenge for both Barron and Jeffries has been to unite concerns across an enormous, ethnically and economically disperate swath of the borough, stretching from Fort Greene to Coney Island. Barron is expected to sweep East New York, while Jeffries looks likely to clinch Fort Greene and Clinton Hill, as well as many of the seaside enclaves such as Brighton Beach and Sea Gate.
It's those in-between areas that have both clamboring to please. While his opponent opines about peace in the Middle East, Jeffries' talking points trend a little closer to home. Keeping folks in their homes, specifically.
Jeffries had come to Tompkins Avenue to talk about gentrification. It's a subject the assemblyman knows from his time in the state Legislature, where he represents Clinton Hill and Prospect Heights, as well as sections of Crown Heights and Bed-Stuy.
"The market will be the market, and eventually you are going to see, I think, tremendous economic progress and revitalization, because that’s what the market forces will dictate," Jeffries told anxious homeowners in Bed-Stuy. "What we can control and need to control is the housing stock, because otherwise Bedford-Stuyvesant will go the way of many other neighborhoods. "
But for Barron, who championed much of the borough's affordable housing, the road to Washington is paved with bigger dreams.
"[Constituents] just feel at this time Congress needs a fighter," Barron said. "I think we're going to surprise some people and come out with a victory on Tuesday."