Clarke Edges Out Yassky in Close Brooklyn Race

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The New York Sun

City Council Member Yvette Clarke narrowly defeated Council Member David Yassky and two other candidates in a Brooklyn race for Congress that has drawn widespread attention for its racial dynamic.

Mr. Yassky, the lone white candidate, had raised significantly more money in the race to replace the retiring incumbent, Rep. Major Owens, in the 11th district, but he faced unrelenting criticism from his opponents, who accused him of moving into the district with the intention of dividing the vote among the African-American candidates.

With all precincts reporting, Ms. Clarke had 31% of the vote to Mr. Yassky’s 26%. State Senator Carl Andrews had 23%, and Christopher Owens, the son of the incumbent, had 20%.

Aided by the endorsements of two powerful health worker unions, Ms. Clarke beat Mr. Yassky despite having to acknowledge earlier in the campaign that she did not graduate from college.The district was created by the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and is 59% black, according to census data.

Late last night, Mr. Yassky said he was not willing to concede the race. “This has been a long night,” he told more than 100 supporters at 200 Fifth, a bar in Park Slope. “I almost wish it were over.”

“We are going to make sure that every vote is counted,” he said to cheers. “We owe it to the voters.”

At a victory party in East Flatbush, Ms. Clarke evoked the memory of Shirley Chisholm, the African American congresswoman who first held the 11th district seat.

“It is in that spirit — one of a fighter who will never stop standing up for what is right — that I go to Congress,” she told supporters.

The day got off to an inauspicious start when a letter was circulated to certain parts of the district saying that Ms. Clarke, considered one of the front-runners in the race, was dropping out. Mr. Owens tried to fight off accusations from the rival campaigns that his camp was behind the letter in an effort to discourage Ms. Clarke’s supporters from voting.

Mr. Owens strongly denied that his campaign created the letter, which contains what appears to be a copy or a forgery of Ms. Clarke’s signature.

“Absolutely not,” Mr. Owens said in a telephone interview yesterday afternoon. He called the letter an “absolutely outrageous, stupid thing to do” and said he called Ms. Clarke personally to say that he was “not involved with it in any way, shape, or form.”

The U.S. attorney’s offices were monitoring the polls in Brooklyn and Queens yesterday. A spokesman for the eastern district, Robert Nardoza, said late in the afternoon that he had not heard of any reports or complaints.

As many as 200,000 voters throughout the city faced problems at the polls yesterday after the Board of Elections sent reminder cards containing incorrect instructions to voters who had recently changed addresses. The cards were told to go to their old polling places, not their new ones. In some cases, the cards were even mailed out of state. A spokeswoman for the board, Valerie Vazquez, said the city does not use the national change of address system when it makes changes to voter information. A vender contracted by the city to modernize its registration system erroneously used data from the national system, resulting in voters receiving inaccurate information, Ms. Vazquez said.

The board realized the problems weeks ago and created a “challenge list” to provide to poll workers throughout the city. Voters who reported to incorrect polling places were allowed to vote if they took a pledge affirming that they lived in that district. Otherwise, they were rerouted to another polling place. Ms. Vazquez said the city did not know how many voters were ultimately affected or did not vote because of the error.

“This is a situation that we rectified, and we assure it will not happen in the general election” in November, Ms. Vazquez said.

In another close congressional race in Brooklyn’s 10th district, Rep. Edolphus Towns beat back a challenge from a radical council member, Charles Barron. Mr. Towns had 47% of the vote to Mr. Barron’s 38%.

There were other tight Democratic races for state Legislature yesterday in the city.

In a rare defeat for an incumbent, state Senator Ada Smith lost to challenger Shirley Huntley in the 10th district in Queens. Ms. Smith was found guilty of harassment last month after throwing a cup of hot coffee at an aide.

In Brooklyn, Alec Brook-Krasny held off a fellow Russian-American immigrant, Ari Kagan, by a 51%-49% margin in the race for the open Assembly seat in the 46th district, which includes Brighton Beach, Coney Island, and part of Bay Ridge.

In Queens, state Senator John Sabini survived a tough challenge from Council Member Hiram Monserrate, winning the 13th district, 51% to 49%. And state Senator Martin Connor won a tight race in the 25th district over developer Ken Diamondstone, 55% to 45%.

The New York Sun

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