Bed-Stuy Voters Send Hakeem Jeffries to Congress
BROOKLYN — Hakeem Jeffries is going to Congress — and he's bringing his Brooklyn pride with him.
As Jeffries celebrated his victory in Brooklyn's 8th Congressional District Tuesday night, he pledged not to forget his roots once he gets to the House of Representatives.
"When I get to Washington on January 3rd for the swearing in, I'll be able to go onto the floor of Congress and utter the words 'Brooklyn is in the House,'" the newly elected Jeffries told ecstatic supporters. "I'm looking forward to going down to Washington and standing up for this community."
The popular Assemblyman, who was up against Republican Alan Bellone, was widely expected to carry the district Tuesday, after fighting to win the Democratic primary for the seat earlier this year.
Voters braved flooded poll sites in Coney Island and waits of up to five hours in Bedford-Stuyvesant to cast their ballot for Jeffries, who will replace longtime Rep. Ed Towns in a district that encompasses much of central and eastern Brooklyn, as well as portions of Queens and the beachside communities Coney Island.
"I've seen him a few times in the neighborhood. Just the ability to relate to a familiar face — you rarely see that," said Jeffries-supporter Yahnick Martin, 34, of Bed-Stuy. "We have to vote for officials in the community — voting for them is just as important as voting for the president, because they're the ones you actually call."
Martin was among hundreds of voters who'd been redirected to overcrowded polls at P.S. 305 after showing up at their assigned polling place at P.S. 44 down the block, only to find it inexplicably shuttered.
Election workers said the P.S. 305 polling station had been mobbed since it opened at 6 a.m., with many voters reporting waits of up to five hours. Lifelong residents said lines were among the longest they'd ever seen, rivaling those in 2008 when residents overwhelmed the polls with a nearly 70 percent voter turnout.
Thankfully, Glenda Williams brought a chair.
"Most people have been here four or five hours," said Williams, 51. "Everybody's here to do the same thing: to put the man in."
Though she and others agreed their first priority was to help re-elect President Barack Obama, Williams, an enthusiastic Jeffries supporter, said he and the president were cut from the same cloth.
"I think [Jeffries] has a fresh attitude on changes that will open doors for us," she said of Jeffries. "It's the same with Obama — his ideas are fresh and they stay fresh."
What endeared the assemblyman most to Bed-Stuy voters seemed to be his commitment to bipartisanship, exactly the same thing that impressed so many about Obama in the 2008 presidential election.
"Too many things that need to be done are not being done because the government is not working together," said Jeffries supporter and longtime resident Sarah Joseph, 63, who has been voting in Bedford-Stuyvesant for more than 30 years. "[Jeffries] seems like a person who is willing to work on both sides of the fence."