By Thomas Tracy
State Senator Carl Andrews received some unanticipated praise from Assemblymember Nick Perry during a recent candidates’ forum for the 11th Congressional District. But the praise, however, had nothing to do with Andrews’ run for Congress. “In this state, we need good Democratic leaders such as my colleague Carl Andrews, who is an excellent leader…that’s why I believe he should be awarded the Senate Minority Leadership position and I would support Carl in every effort to get that position,” said Perry, with his tongue firmly pressed in his cheek as he addressed members of the New Independent Democrats. Andrews laughed heartily throughout Perry’s playful chiding, but made it loud and clear that he’s “not dropping out.” That was the light tone of the meeting, held at Congregation Agudat Shalom at 3714 18th Avenue Thursday, a candidates’ forum that was in stark contrast to another forum held just two weeks ago at the Lambda Independent Democrats in Park Slope. While Lambda, the borough’s the borough’s Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender political club, wanted to know the candidates’ stances on gay marriage and their feelings on President George Bush’s approval of warrantless wiretaps, all the New Independent Democrats seemed to care about was the futures of both homeland security and Social Security, it appeared. Jacob Gold, a Democratic District Leader for the 44th Assembly District and the president of the New Independent Democrats, said that residents in Flatbush and Kensington’s political views are a bit different than those of Park Slopers. “Club members are more blue-collar and middle class,” said Gold, who added that the New Independent Democrats is the largest club of its kind in Flatbush. Perry, Andrews, Chris Owens and City Councilmembers Yvette Clarke and David Yassky are seeking the club’s endorsement in their run for the 11th Congressional District. They are all vying for the seat vacated by outgoing Rep. Major Owens, who announced his retirement last year. The 11th Congressional District encompasses Park Slope, Windsor Terrace, Kensington, and Flatbush as well as small sections of Brooklyn Heights, Carroll Gardens and Midwood. In his comments, Perry referenced reports that Andrews is poised to become the next Senate Minority Leader, now that State Senator David Paterson has joined Eliot Spitzer in his run for Governor. He could only retain that position, however, if he drops out of the Congressional race. However, time and time again, Andrews has declared that he is not going to drop out of the race, which would leave the 20th Senatorial District open this fall. A group of candidates including Eric Adams of 100 Blacks in Law Enforcement Who Care and Anthony Alexis, who worked under Rhoda Jacobs and Tracy Boyland, have already shown an interest in running for the seat. Currently, rumors are circulating that Perry may be the first to drop out of the race. The Jamaican born Assemblyman came to the New Independent Democrats claiming that he showed up because “there was a job opening.” “The person who takes this job will work for you, so if you look at all the applicants and look at the most qualified, you will hire me for the job,” he said. Citing his 25 years of public service as well as the endorsements he’s already received from several borough legislators including State Senator Carl Kruger and Assemblymembers Rhoda Jacobs and Steven Cymbrowitz, Andrews said that he would like to use a portion of his homeland security dollars into cracking down on borough gang activities. He would also like change how the federal government handles local schools. “They talk about no child left behind, but our children are being left behind every day,” said Andrews. To the crowd, Clarke came off as spirited go getter who wants to stir things up in Washington, especially when it comes to immigrants rights “When you send one of us to Washington, you’re going to want a representative that is in your face and that’s me,” she said. Owens, the son of the outgoing Congressman, arrived late and could not give his pitch to the audience. But, upon answering a question about how one would help bolster the democratic party, the long-time civic activist described himself as a staunch Democrat and campaign supporter who was in Ohio working to get Congressman John Kerry elected to the Presidency. “We were devastated when we lost Ohio,” said Owens, who added that one of the ways the Democratic Party could thrive was through a change in perception. “The country views us [Democrats] as soft,” he said. “But things like education, health care and strengthening our domestic policy are not soft issues.” In order to take back Washington, Owens said that the Democrats must take their message back to the people. “We have to tell them that they’re going to lose under a Republican administration, just as everybody else is,” he said. The only candidate in the race that couldn’t make it to the forum was Yassky, who claimed he could not attend because of a conflict in scheduling. Yassky is expected to make his pitch to the New Independent Democrats at a later date. While the club would not endorse anyone for a few months, an unofficial poll among members in attendance revealed that Andrews was the clear winner of the forum. Clarke was a close second, followed by Owens. “A lot of the membership felt that she [Clarke] came across very spunky and feisty,” said one source. If the off the cuff poll was any indication of the membership’s thoughts, than Perry lost the job interview, the source said.