New Challenger Ready to Take On Owens For Congress?

By Stephen Witt

Rumors that State Senator Carl Andrews may drop out of the upcoming 11th Congressional District Democratic primary appear to be greatly exaggerated. According to one published report, Andrews was dropping out to focus on becoming the next Senate Minority Leader, replacing Sen. David Paterson. Paterson is running for Lt. Governor on the same ticket as Eliot Spitzer, who is running for governor. But Andrews, who once worked in Spitzer’s Attorney General’s office, said he has no intention of dropping out of the congressional race. “I’m honored and flattered that my name has been mentioned to replace Senator Paterson, who’s been a great minority leader and who will make an excellent Lt. Governor, but that said I just hired a campaign manager for the congressional race,” said Andrews. The congressional race, which encompasses Park Slope, Windsor Terrace, Kensington, and Flatbush as well as small sections of Brooklyn Heights, Carroll Gardens and Midwood, opened up as Rep. Major Owens is retiring. Thus far, the other declared candidates include City Councilmembers David Yassky and Yvette Clarke, Assemblymember Nick Perry and Chris Owens, son of Major Owens. The rumor mill also has it that Councilmember Bill de Blasio is thinking of throwing his hat in the ring for the seat. However, other rumors have it de Blasio may run for the Senate seat that Andrews is vacating to run for Congress. Since the State Senate and Assembly also have primaries on September 12, Andrews and Perry must give up their seat to run for Congress. Since Yassky, Clarke and de Blasio recently won their City Council seats, none would have to give up that office while running for higher office. De Blasio did not return several phone calls at press time. However, looking at the 11th Congressional district, one source pointed out that a candidate would find it very difficult to get their message out without raising money. On this front, Yassky appears to be in the best shape, having put out a press release announcing he has raised more than $550,000 by the end of 2005, and has more than $500,000 cash-on-hand. Andrews reportedly has $191,000 cash-on-hand, and Perry has $84,000 cash-on-hand. Sources say that Yvette Clarke has a campaign war chest with less than $20,000 war chest and Chris Owens is in debt already. “If they can’t get $100,000 in their account, why are they running for Congress? The fact that you can’t raise money may show how serious you are as a candidate,” said one source. “The ability to raise money indicates the support people have in your candidacy,” the source added. Several other political watchdogs speculate that Yassky is running a race-based election on the premise that the other candidates – all black – will split the black vote. While the district is mainly African-American, there is a solid white minority. “I don’t buy the fact that Yassky will get 80 percent of the white vote,” said Andrews, adding that he has growing support in Park Slope. The variables in the race include one or more of the black candidates dropping out to solidify a black base, and possibly de Blasio entering the race, which could divide the white vote. Yassky said he doesn’t think that much about what the other candidates are doing, but is focusing on taking his message to the voters. “As far as I’m concerned, the more candidates fine, the fewer candidates fine. The richer the debate the better,” said Yassky. “At the end of the day voters vote on substance, ideas and records of the candidates, and I believe I have the strongest record and best set of ideas to make Congress work harder for Brooklyn,” he added.

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