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Residents Outraged at Hakeem Jeffries' Debate Boycott

By Janet Upadhye | June 5, 2012 4:53pm

FORT GREENE — Many local residents were insulted by Hakeem Jeffries' refusal to participate in the Fort Greene Association's Town Hall debate on Monday.

The state assemblyman boycotted the debate with other politicians vying for the Democratic nomination to represent Fort Greene in Congress, complaining earlier that the presence of candidates from other parties would confuse voters.

"Given the addition of two candidates who will not appear on the ballot this June, and the confusion this poses to the electorate, we are declining the invitation at this time," Jeffries' campaign said in a statement, according to The Local.

"The fact that he didn't bother to come shows he is no longer a candidate of the people," said Ayodeji Babalola, 60, of Clinton Hill. "These days he is owned by corporations." 

The event was originally planned as a chance for city Councilman Charles Barron and Jeffries to square off in their fight for the 8th Congressional District seat.  But when the association later decided to invite Green Party member Colin Beavan and Republican Allan Bellone to participate, Jeffries pulled out, Beavan said.

Barron made only one comment about his no-show rival saying that the candidates needed to "respect constituents by showing up and letting them know who you are." His statement was met by loud applause from the audience. 

Jeffries did not return a call for comment.

Barron, a former Black Panther Party member and long-time community activist, stood on a platform of fighting poverty, examining the prolific rate of foreclosures in the community and continuing to rally against the construction of the Barclays Center.

Beavan, a self proclaimed part-time single dad, focused on ending U.S. dependence on crude oil and fossil fuels.  

He made several jabs at Jeffries’ debate ditch.

“I hope it’s either you or me,” he said turning to Barron. "People who don’t show up at events are not leaders."

Bellone, a small business owner, talked about tax breaks for small businesses and better education opportunities. He was odd man out, sitting a few feet from a joking and whispering Barron-Beaven duo but still managed to receive some applause for a plug for more parks.

"Of the three, Barron was the obvious winner," said Alex Cacioppo, 25. "He was charismatic and connected well with the audience."

Cacioppo is still unsure for whom he will vote on June 26 but said given Jeffries’ absence he is leaning towards Barron.