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Wed Jun 27, 2012, 01:46 PM

All Politics Is National: Why an Anti-Israel Candidate Lost in Brooklyn

A Democratic congressional primary pitted an Obama-style young lawyer against an old-school, outspoken ex-Black Panther. The younger man romped.


"When the results came in, Charles Barron had lost the Democratic primary in Brooklyn's 8th Congressional District Tuesday by a staggering margin of 72-28. It wasn't because the controversial New York city councilman has outlandish views about foreign policy, praising Muammar Qaddafi and Robert Mugabe. Nor was it because Barron's opponent, Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries, outraised him by a ratio of roughly 10 to 1.

Instead, it was simply that Barron was not good at politics.

This election received national attention precisely because Barron, a racially charged throwback to the 1960s, seemed to have a real chance at winning. He was never the favorite -- even when his campaign was peaking several weeks ago, one Democratic insider described him as "a live longshot" -- few thought it would be a blowout. Challenging an incumbent in the same congressional district six years ago Barron had lost narrowly. There was no reason to think his margin Tuesday night would be much different. Although Jeffries in his victory speech derided "the political pundits who said this was going to be a close race," prior to polls closing, those pundits did seem to have had a point.

The 8th Congressional District is a majority-minority district under the Voting Rights Act that sprawls across the eastern half of Brooklyn and is shaped like a giant upside-down hairdryer. The seat came open when 15-term Rep. Edolphus Towns abruptly decided in April not to run for re-election rather than face challenges from Jeffries and Barron. Towns had long been decried as ineffectual and had been a lackluster fundraiser on the eve of what was expected to be his toughest campaign yet.

That narrowed the election to Jeffries and Barron, who represent two polar extremes in African-American politics. Jeffries, an New York University-trained lawyer and former white shoe corporate attorney, is an exemplar of the Obama generation of black politicians. In contrast, Barron is a former Black Panther who boasts of his background as an activist and his role as a gadfly on the City Council. Reggie Sherman, a businessman from Bedford-Stuyvesant sympathetic to both, put it bluntly: "Hakeem is light skinned; Barron is dark skinned. Hakeem knows when to keep his mouth shut; Barron doesn't."


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