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Hakeem Jeffries announces bid for Congress — doesn’t mention opponent

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State Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries announced his long-anticipated bid for Congress on Sunday and didn’t even bother to mention the 30-year incumbent he’s expected to run against.

The Fort Greene Democrat rallied more than 150 supporters on the steps of Borough Hall with a seven-minute speech that described the district and its problems in broad terms, but did not make a single reference to 76-year-old Congressional veteran Rep. Ed Towns (D-Fort Greene).

“Congress is broken, people are suffering, and we deserve more,” said Jeffries.

Jeffries swore to defend President Obama, stand up against the Republican party, bring more affordable housing to the district and improve the failing education system.

He told reporters after he finished his speech that he “respects” Towns, but it’s time for communities in central Brooklyn to move in a “different direction.”

“I take him at his word and I expect him to run for re-election,” said Jeffries. “People will have to ultimately decide who to support.”

Jeffries has been plodding toward a move to Washington since May, when he began holding fundraisers in Hasidic Williamsburg, an area outside his state assembly district but a stronghold in the 10th Congressional district.

Five months later, Jeffries filed paperwork with the Federal Elections Commission to open a new campaign committee for his congressional run and raised more than $173,000.

But Jeffries is expected to face a stiff challenge from Towns, who hasn’t lost an election since 1983, and insurgent candidate Councilman Charles Barron (D-East New York), who nearly toppled Towns in a congressional race six years ago despite being heavily outspent.

Jeffries has more cash to spend than his opponents, with $158,000 in his account, according to FEC figures from September. Towns only has $11,240 in the bank, after spending $322,000 in campaign funds this fall. Barron’s campaign information remained unavailable. New campaign filings are scheduled to come out in the next week.

But the early fundraising advantage isn’t why Jeffries’s allies say he has a real shot of unseating his older rival and tamping down Barron’s challenge.

“He’s going to stand on his record in Albany, which has been to get legislation passed by reaching across the aisle and developing relationsh­ips,” said Fort Greene’s Democratic District Leader Walter Mosley.

Towns claims he’s not afraid of a Democratic primary.

“I have every intention of being re-elected and returning to Congress to continue my work on behalf of senior citizens, to fight for better educational opportunities, to protect reforms to healthcare, and to ensure that more people get jobs,” Towns said on Monday.

The army veteran and Baptist minister lost a bid for State Assembly before winning an open congressional seat in 1982. He rose to become chair of the House Oversight committee, but lost the seat when Republicans won the majority in 2010.

Like his older rival, Jeffries came up short in his first race for State Assembly in 2000.

Two years later, his opponent redrew district lines to exclude Jeffries’ apartment — but Jeffries had the last laugh when he won his seat in 2006 and worked to introduce new laws reigning in the practice.

Councilman Steve Levin (D-Greenpoint) said he always envisioned that the ambitious lawmaker would find his way to Congress.

“He has compassion, intellect, and a sense of decency,” said Levin. “It’s going to be a tough race but I think he can win.”

Reach reporter Aaron Short at ashort@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260-2547.

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Reader Feedback

Milton from Canarsie says:
I am totally AGAINST Barack Hussein Obama, but I also believe All Incumbents Out. Towns is too, too cushy when it comes to speaking out against illegal immigration, but I believe the illegals have helped upset our financial cart--free education, free health care, free everything.
All Imcumbents Out...
Term Limits for all politicians.
Jan. 18, 2012, 2:09 pm
Dawn from Brooklyn Heights says:
Why didn't this article mention that Rep. Towns, as chair of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, squelched the investigation of Countryside Mortgage (who was a big part of the said he has other work to do on the causes of and fixes for the financial crisis and will not interfere with other investigations of the VIP loans. Meanwhile, the senior Republican on Towns' committee, California Rep. Darrell Issa, has been trying for months to get Towns to subpoena Bank of America for Countrywide's records.

Surprise, surprise, when the records where finally released, Rep. Town's himself was on the list!!

Yeah, get rid of the incumbent, indeed. Although, I'm voting for Councilman Barron as he's sounded the best at Occupy rallies (okay, so no other Congressional candidate ever spoke!). I don't trust Jeffries' mentor, Vito Lopez. I'm also suspicious that he never opposed Atlantic Yards.

True change we can believe in, not the same 'ole, kinda change. Kinda hope.
Jan. 22, 2012, 10:27 pm
Milton from Canarsie says:
To Dawn from Brooklyn Heights:

Duh? You are talking double-talk. Yes, you want incumbents out BUT you want Charles Barron in. Barron has never been in Congress but he is entrenched in politics, deep!
Yes, we need true change we can believe in. That means new, fresh faces.
Hmmm, is Barron another Democrook?
Feb. 10, 2012, 1:46 pm

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