Brooklyn, locally referred to as “The People’s Republic,” is gearing up for a major congressional primary this Tuesday, June 26. Going for the seat vacated by 15-term veteran Edolphus Towns are Councilman Charles Barron and Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries, who have hit the street corners, subways stations, community events and churches at warp speed. Towns, for his part, threw his considerable support behind Barron after announcing his retirement.

Charles Barron

Barron has represented the 40th City Council District since 2001, and he has a reputation for opposing what he has declared to be established but unjust situations in the community, from policing to housing. His opponent is the attorney Jeffries, who has represented Brooklyn’s 57th District in the state Assembly for five years and wants to bring new blood and energy to Capitol Hill.

In the final leg of the race, the AmNews asked both candidates the same set of questions about their main issues, achievements and goals.

Barron reeled off a long list of issues that he is known for taking on: “racial profiling/stop-and-frisk, discriminatory housing, single-payer medical care, safeguarding social security, lack of jobs, suffocating foreclosures, pushing for a living wage bill and my support for day care centers.”

He then launched into a fuller description of his achievements and the issues that have authored his political moves. “I am the No. 1 council member in attracting affordable housing to my district, so people earning $20,000, $30,000 or $40,000 can get a two- or three-bedroom apartment or studio for $300-$900.

“I am the No. 1 councilman in renovating parks; we have spent $17 million renovating three parks, and we have the best parks in the city. As for education, I have helped bring two $80 million schools to the district and I have secured millions of dollars for CUNY scholarships. I have also helped saved two schools and two senior centers that were on the chopping block in my district.

“I have always been a big, big supporter of labor,” Barron continued. “With DC37, I was one of the first to fight against the firing of 642 school aide workers; with 1199, I led the charge for hospital workers at Brookdale Hospital, who were fighting to save their pensions and health care benefits. I went to jail with 32BJ in their fight for a fair contract and benefits; with TWU, I fought to save tollbooth workers and motormen and on their three-day strike, I was there every day.”

He said he hears about the issues that affect his community on a daily basis.

“I am very well entrenched in the fight for basic human and civil rights in our community,” he said. “You are not just going to subject us to violent police containment, substandard education and housing and think we will just give in. No, we as elected officials have to fight for our communities so they get the resources and funds that they need and deserve to have a decent quality of life.”

Barron said his record over the years speaks for itself.

“I am connected to the movement and I am able to bring this strong base of support to influence Washington. The fact that I have the unwavering support of Ed Towns, whose seat I am seeking, shows the community that this elder statesman who has been in office for 30 years recognizes my commitment and my potential to work for and with the people to make our district as strong as it can be,” he explained.

“I am going to Washington to make sure that the people of this nation–and the 8th Congressional District in particular–get exactly what they need to improve their lives and be full and productive members of their community. Let us get funds and resources to challenge poverty, violence, police brutality, homelessness, the attacks on our schools and the assault on CUNY students with the outrageous fee hikes.”

Barron noted he has a 100 percent grassroots campaign, with his volunteer army hitting the bricks trying to raise campaign funds. His opponent, he maintained, gets money from “Wall Street financiers and hedge fund operatives.”

“Our campaign is strictly of the people, for the people,” he claimed. “We are beyond transparent. It is the man and the woman on the street of every hue and distinction who has given us their support, and it is they who will come out on June 26 to send us to Congress to have a real voice of the people on Capitol Hill to help get things done for our community.”

Hakeem Jeffries

Jeffries told the AmNews, “One of the main issues is the foreclosure rises that have swept across my district. I will address the tremendous loss of home ownership that many in my community have been experiencing over several years.”

Jeffries proudly announced he was among the first to support Barack Obama’s original presidential run, even when most other New York City electeds were supporting Hillary Clinton.

In support of Obama, Jeffries noted, “He inherited a very difficult economy and he has made significant progress. I suspect that if he gets a second term, the next four years will be even better.

“I am looking forward to working with President Obama and turning the economy around, getting people the jobs that they so desperately need.”

Asked how he would do so, Jeffries replied, “The New York City Housing Authority [NYCHA] is obligated to use 30 percent of the money from the federal government for capital expenditure in a way that creates local employment for public housing residents and the surrounding community. This is their obligation, but for decades it has been ignored. My goal as a member of Congress will be to compel the federal government and NYCHA to meet their obligations under the law and create employment for long-suffering public housing residents.”

As for stop-and-frisk, Jeffries, who pushed for Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s (apparently Republican-defeated) marijuana bill, said, “I will strongly encourage the Department of Justice to investigate the systematic civil rights abuses that regularly take place in the communities of color across our city as a result of the stop-and-frisk program.

“It is mostly Blacks and Latinos who are arrested every year in New York City for possession of small quantities of marijuana. It is the largest single arrest category in the state, and tens of thousands of lives are needlessly ruined by giving these individuals a criminal record.”

Though the bill seemed dead in the water this week, with Republicans digging in their heels, it could be reintroduced later.

“If we can pass this bill, we can end the marijuana arrest explosion in our communities,” Jeffries said. “Mayor Bloomberg has arrested more people for small quantities of marijuana than Giuliani, Koch and Dinkins combined.”

Speaking of the NYPD, Jeffries continued, “I wrote the law that shut down the NYPD database that maintained the personal information of more than 1 million innocent, law-abiding New Yorkers who were stop-and-frisked and had done nothing wrong.

“I also championed the legislation that changed the way incarcerated individuals are counted for purposes for legislative redistricting; people, mostly Black and Latino, who are temporarily held upstate were counted as residents of those counties, taking away political power from neighborhoods like Harlem, Bed-Stuy, Brownsville, East New York and the South Bronx.

“Under the legislation that I passed, incarcerated individuals will now be counted as residents of the communities they come from and will ultimately return to after they finish their sentence.”

Jeffries talked about how he supported the repeal of the Rockefeller drug laws, “which [were] sending people to prison who should have been given drug treatment.”

He added, “I often encountered people pushed out of their neighborhoods as a result of the forces of gentrification. In response, I created a free legal housing clinic that provides assistance to tenants and homeowners who face either eviction or foreclosure. I launched Operation Preserve in 2007, and we’ve helped hundreds of people stay in their homes in my district where gentrification is most intense.”

As for attacks claiming that he has received a bundle of hedge fund and Wall Street 1-percenter money, Jeffries denies it.

“That is factually incorrect and is designed to take attention away from real issues in the congressional district. We’ve raised money from more than 2,400 people during this campaign, and over 60 percent of the contributors gave $100 or less. Our fundraising activities have been fueled by grassroots support.

“I’ve received some support from some people on Wall Street, but that’s a tiny fraction in this campaign. People should question people throwing charges with not a thread of evidence to back them up. We all have to file with the Federal Election Commission, which provides transparency as to who has been supporting our campaigns.”

Jeffries said he is a strong candidate because “I have a proven track record of legislative accomplishment that demonstrates that I can get the job done. Washington is filled with people interested in self-promotion, and the communities need a representative committed to doing the business of the people.

“The campaign is going extremely well,” he said. “We have tremendous movement, with a lot of support from unions and prominent clergy like 1199, TWU and Johnny Youngblood, Fred Lucas and Gary Simpson.”