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Towns, Powell showdown - Young challenger taking on entrenched incumbent

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The incumbent is a political veteran. The opponent comes riding the Obama wave of African-Americans who have come of age in the post-Civil Rights generation.

Either way, the upcoming 10th Congressional Democratic district primary pitting 24-year incumbent Rep. Edolphus Towns against hip-hop writer and activist Kevin Powell continues to generate interest.

The district encompasses both recently gentrified and historically working class neighborhoods including East New York, Canarsie, Brownsville, Bedford-Stuyvesant, Cypress Hills, Clinton Hill, Mill Basin, Midwood, Downtown Brooklyn, Boreum Hill, and parts of Fort Greene and Williamsburg.

“The thing about this district is it’s interesting in that one area is concerned about one thing and another about something else. They’re zip code issues,” said Towns.

“In downtown Brooklyn, Atlantic Yards is an issue and in Starrett City it’s affordable housing,” he added.

Towns said in Williamsburg there is a concern about no land to build housing in the Hasidic community and in Clinton Hill there are problems in terms of education and schools.

In Canarsie there are a lot of foreclosures going on, he said.

Powell, on the other hand, sees more similarities between the communities as opposed to differences, pointing out a meeting he had with Williamsburg’s Hasidic community several weeks ago where he was told of concerns regarding health care, education and affordable housing.

“The issues are the same that come up in Bed-Stuy, Williamsburg and Canarsie,” said Powell, adding that he plans to walk from one end of the district to the other during his campaign to learn constituent concerns.

Powell said his campaign will also differ in substance and style from Towns in reflecting facts including the Obama Democratic primary win.

Towns supported Hillary Clinton in the primary, while constituents in his district supported Obama.

“The days of constituents following what black electeds or ministers do and the day of the homogenous black vote is over. The fact he [Obama] came through as a nominee is very significant,” said Powell.

“Towns got to office based on the civil rights movement. My campaign is young blacks and whites, a multicultural coalition, which is very different. We grew up in a very different world of integrated schools and multicultural neighborho­ods,” he added.

One major difference between the two candidates is the proposed Atlantic Yards project – a city and state issue in which neither of the candidates for federal office will have much oversight.

Towns said he has seen how sports arenas in Washington, DC and Cleveland have transformed blighted neighborhoods and created economic development. Additionally, the project will bring affordable housing, he said.

Powell said the project will bring increased traffic and more gentrification, and supports more holistic economic development.

There are old warehouses all along the Atlantic Avenue corridor that can be revitalized with modern manufacturing jobs in food processing, high-tech industry and micro-business loans to smaller entrepreneurs, he said.

Towns, an old-time political professional, said he is not even sure that Powell is running and is waiting for him to turn in the 2,500 “good” names on his petition to run.

Powell, who has until midnight July 10 [after this paper goes to press], said he will hand in between 8,000 and 10,000 signatures, and will be prepared should Towns challenge them in court.

“We’ll have 4,000 alone in East New York, Ed Towns’ community,” said Powell.

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