On July 10th I posted a podcast interview with congressional candidate Chris Owens of Brooklyn, New York’s 11th congressional district. As I am new to podcasting, the host site I used at the time wasn’t very good. I’ve finally come up with a better one. Since the Democratic primary for the 11th district is Tuesday, September 12, I thought it made sense to repost the podcast.
This district is a human mosaic of 654,000: 60 percent blacks, 20 percent whites, 12 percent Hispanics, 4 percent Asians and 4 percent other ethnicities. The minorities, mostly Caribbean Americans and other immigrants, comprise 80 percent of the district.
The 11th is historically significant because it was created pursuant to the Voting Rights Act. In 1968, the district elected the first black woman to Congress – Shirley Chisholm. Since then the predominantly black population has been represented in Washington by one of their own. The incumbent, Major R. Owens is retiring after serving in Congress since 1984. An African-American, Representative Owens is highly regarded among progressives for his commitment to strengthening public education. He also happens to be the father of candidate Chris Owens.
Ironically, it is the candidacy of a white politician named David Yassky who has generated controversy in the 11th. Yassky is the only white politician among four candidates vying for the Democratic Party’s nomination. There is virtually no doubt the seat will remain in Democratic hands this November.
Yassky is a city councilman who originally planned to run for Brooklyn District Attorney. He abandoned that race, changed his residence to the 11th district and quickly raised $1 million for the campaign. Some regard him as an accomplished public servant with much to offer. Others believe that Yassky calculated he couldn’t win the race for District Attorney and preferred to campaign for an office in which the black vote would be split three-ways. Yassky contends he entered the fray after “soul searching.”
City Councilwoman Yvette D. Clarke currently represents part of the 11th District and challenged Representative Owens in a three way primary two years ago and came in second.
State Senator Carl Andrews is favored by the Democratic Party’s New York establishment and was endorsed by gubernatorial candidate Eliot Spitzer and former Mayor David Dinkins. Even as Andrews enjoys their support he is also attempting to distance himself from the Democratic organization, where he was close to Clarence Norman Jr., the former Brooklyn Democratic leader who was convicted on corruption charges in 2005.
Chris Owens was an elected Community School Board member and president. His government experience includes working with former City Council President Andrew Stein as well as over a decade in the private sector in the health care industry. Owens promotes himself as “The Real Progressive” in the race.
He supports our immediate withdrawal from Iraq, President Bush’s impeachment, single payer health care and opposes the Atlantic Yards development project to provide a Brooklyn home for the New Jersey Nets basketball team.
Click here to listen to the interview. Please be advised this is not a “soundbite” interview as we covered a lot of ground.