Congressman Jeffries Backs Barron’s Opponent In East New York Council Race

Congressman Jeffries Backs Barron’s Opponent In East New York Council Race
Assembly Member Charles Barron and Congress Member Hakeem Jeffries.

Firebrand Assembly Member Charles Barron has a powerful foe in his run for East New York’s City Council seat.

Influential Congress Member Hakeem Jeffries, whose Brooklyn district includes East New York, is backing Nikki Lucas, a Starrett City resident battling Barron for the Council seat for the 42nd District.

Jeffries, who is also chair of the House Democratic Caucus, has not formally endorsed Lucas. But campaign finance disclosure reports released earlier this month show “Jeffries for Congress” gave $1,000 to Lucas’ campaign on January 11th.

The donation is not entirely surprising. Jeffries and Lucas have co-hosted community events in the past, when Lucas served as a Democratic Party District Leader, and Jeffries appointed Lucas to serve as a member of the area’s Neighborhood Advisory Board.

But Jeffries’ support of Lucas also represents a new front in an old political battle: Jeffries won his congressional seat after defeating Barron in a highly contentious primary in 2012.

The Council seat is currently held by Barron’s term-limited wife, Inez Barron. Barron is no stranger to the role: he represented the district in the Council himself from 2001-2013 before taking on the Assembly seat, which was previously held by none other than Inez. Though the seat-swapping has drawn criticism from some quarters, the Barrons remain well-known, broadly popular and unabashedly combative.

But the campaigns’ finance disclosure reports indicate Barron could face a stiff challenge from Lucas, who has raised $50,233 in private contributions, double that of Barron’s $24,244.

In a phone conversation with Bklyner, Barron brushed off Lucas’ fundraising advantage.

“Money doesn’t vote,” Barron said. “People vote. We’ve been out-raised on many occasions. But people will vote for those who have experience, those who are productive, that have a track record. The people of my district are not for sale.”

A spokesperson for Jeffries did not respond to a request for comment by press time.

A third candidate, army veteran and NAACP grants manager Wilfredo Florentino, raised $21,840 in private contributions. That money included $250 from Sabrina Rezzy, Communications Director for Flatbush Assembly Member Rodneyse Bichotte Hermalyn, who is also chair of the Brooklyn Democratic Party.

Barron, himself a Democratic Party District Leader, has been openly critical of party leadership, often voting alongside a wave of young reform District Leaders backed by the political club New Kings Democrats (NKD) in an intra-party fight that has descended into a tangle of lawsuits and boycotts.

But Rezzy said her donation did not reflect Bichotte’s own position on the race.

“My donation is a reflection of my personal support for Wilfredo,” she said. “I have not discussed the race with Rodneyse. I know Wilfredo through community events and believe he is a strong, progressive candidate. We also have similar-aged kids and we discuss their growing pains together.”

Nevertheless, there is a bit of irony in the donation: Florentino was one of NKD’s founding board members.