Jeffries And Barron Fire At Each Other

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[New York]
Assembly Member Hakeem Jeffries and Council Member Charles Barron, anticipated opponents for Rep. Ed Towns’ congressional seat, are not waiting for a race that could come as soon as 2012 to start attacking each other.

On Monday, Jeffries hit back at Barron for disparaging comments Barron made about him in an op-ed in last week’s edition of The Amsterdam News. “The more Charles Barron speaks, the less credible he becomes,” Jeffries said. “Silence is his best friend.”

Barron slammed Jeffries in last week’s Amsterdam News for introducing Robert Duffy, the mayor of Rochester and Andrew Cuomo’s candidate for lieutenant governor, at the Democratic convention earlier this month. Barron expressed disappointment that there are no African Americans or Latinos running for statewide office on the Democratic slate, reasoning that the lack of diversity should have prompted Cuomo to pick an African American to be his lieutenant governor running mate.

“How could Black leadership sit back and not sharply and strongly criticize this selection?” Barron wrote. “Worse yet, they even got Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries to help introduce him. What a sad commentary. He doesn’t even know Duffy.”

Jeffries, however, pointed out that he met Duffy at the 2006 Democratic convention, and had been impressed with the work Duffy has done as mayor of Rochester.

“You have a [former] police chief that is anti-death penalty—that in and of itself is significant to me,” he said, adding that Duffy, “understands the African American community because he was elected as mayor of a city with a significant African American community.”

Jeffries also noted that a time when the president of the United States is African American, and two of the “three men in a room”—Senate majority leader John Sampson and Gov. David Paterson—are African American, the question of who holds the position of lieutenant governor, a position that lacks real power, is largely irrelevant.

“Post January 1, this position has no constitutional or statutory authority to do anything for the communities of color that we represent or for that matter that Councilman Barron represents,” Jeffries said. “So is he more concerned about showmanship or is he more concerned about workmanship? Most of us are concerned about workmanship.”

Jeffries said he and his fellow African American elected officials should instead focus their energy on electing more Democrats to the Senate, since if Democrats are able to retain the majority there it will ensure that Sampson remains one of the most powerful people in the state. Jeffries added that he and others who support Cuomo are more concerned about diversity in the upper echelons of a Cuomo administration and about policies that affect communities of color around the state than about who Cuomo has chosen for his second-in-command.

“It doesn’t shock me that Barron would be articulating a view of the world that takes us back to the 1960’s pre-Civil Rights breakthroughs, but we are in a different world and we should be more concerned about actual substance,” he said. Jeffries also noted that there were African Americans like Harold Ford and Bill Thompson who considered running for statewide office, but ultimately decided against it.

“No one strong-armed any African American out of any race,” he said. “In a state of 19 million, one didn’t emerge.”

In an interview, Barron—who last week once again made himself the center of criticism by comparing the living conditions of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip to a Nazi death camp, prompting a letter of complaint from six of his Council colleagues—stood by his comments on Cuomo, calling this year’s Democratic slate, “a political blackout,” that he compared to demographically to 1950’s Mississippi.

Barron also refused to back down from his criticism of Jeffries.

“He is a little puppet for the Democratic Party’s white leadership and the county leader here in Brooklyn,” Barron said. “He should be more independent.” Both Jeffries and Barron are mentioned as leading potential candidates to succeed Towns when he eventually retires, but they each denied that political considerations factored into this flare-up of mutual public criticism.

“I think the focus should obviously be on what our current responsibilities are as elected officials,” Jeffries said.

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