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Will Former Black Panther Win in NY?

At Tablet, Zack Beauchamp wonders whether Democrats are overreacting about former Black Panther Charles Barron’s chance of winning the Brooklyn primary race against the more moderate Hakeem Jeffries:

There is real panic among Democratic leaders that Barron might win. As far as I can tell, the fear stems from an endorsement from the seat’s former holder Ed Towns, one New York Times article touting a “Barron surge,” and the simple fear created by the anticipation of a very bad outcome. It’s not clear how much the endorsement matters and the Times article is a bit short on evidence. That’s not me saying that – the Times’ own local blog is a bit perplexed[.]

And as far as endorsements go, Jeffries has Governor Andrew Cuomo, the most high profile local papers, several important unions, a raft of significant Democrats and democratic institutions, and a wink-wink-nudge-nudge photo-op with the President. Also, Jewish voters could be critical given the district’s demographics. Since there’s been virtually no polling done on the race, I think the evidence we have to go on suggests it’s Jeffries’ race to lose.

Beauchamp’s right that by all normal measures, it probably should be Jeffries race to win. But I’m not so sure.

The New York Democratic establishment clearly seems worried about something. Barron and Jeffries have been vying seriously for the seat since Ed Towns announced his retirement in mid-April, but the race received little attention until recently. What prompted the sudden surge of anxiety and last-minute Jeffries endorsements from establishment Democrats? We don’t know the extent of the independent polling that’s been done, or the trends the Jeffries’ campaign was picking up on the ground.

That’s not to say the fear will turn out to be justified. The district is notorious for its low voter turnout, which probably makes difficult to predict voting outcomes. But the New York Times reports signs that turnout was higher than average today in part of the district:

But at Brooklyn Technical High School in Fort Greene, in a district where Assemblyman Hakeem S. Jeffries and City Councilman Charles Barron are vying to replace Edolphus Towns, who is retiring, the polling coordinator, Selma Jackson, said turnout seemed relatively high.

“We don’t usually have this kind of flow in the morning,” Ms. Jackson said shortly after 9 a.m., three hours after the polls opened. “Normally in this time of morning, if I’ve seen 10, 12 people for a primary, that’s good. We’re way past that.”

That could be good for bad news Jeffries — organization is key, and Barron has a loyal base. We can assume Democrats are helping Jeffries bolster his get out the vote efforts, but was it too little too late?

One last question: If Charles Barron does win, how much will it actually matter? It seems like the Democratic Party and New Yorkers would be the hardest hit, since they’d be associated with his embarrassing antics on a national stage (unless a Republican somehow ends up beating him in the general election). To most people, Barron would probably be another running joke like Cynthia McKinney. That is to say he would be considered reprehensible and deranged but too toxic to be taken seriously.


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