4:36 pm Nov. 15, 2011
After a "very positive" meeting on Friday night, Councilman Charles Barron said he's "moving closer and closer" to running for Congress, and he's already settled on when and where he might announce a second challenge to Representative Ed Towns.
"If everything goes right, which I think is going to go right, with these next few meetings I have, we'll probably be announcing something on the 27th at 3 o'clock, at what we call Sonny Carson Park," Barron told me in a phone interview this afternoon.
"So that's what we're leaning toward. It was a very positive meeting, very uplifting."
Barron said his main concern about running was the prospect of winning, and then having to be in Washington too much. On the plus side, being in Congress would afford him three offices in the district and a bigger staff, and all of that could help further the aims of his nascent Freedom Party.
Barron said he would try to work with other minority members of Congress to extract more concessions from the leadership, and from the president.
"If they thought that 30 or 40 Democrats were going to vote their way, collectively, if certain things weren't on the table, maybe we could get more," he said. "It seems that Barack Obama gives more to the blue dog conservative Democrats than to the black Democrats."
"He takes the black community for granted, thinking that we have nowhere to go, it's either him or Mitt Romney, or some other fool who's making a mess of this Republican primary," Barron said. "He knows we're stuck with him, so he has more of a tendency to take care of Wall Street, and take care of the Jewish community and Israel, and take care of the gay community, and take care of the conservative Democrats, who say they're not going to give him their vote for health care, or regulations, unless he gives them something. I hope to have some impact on that."
Barron said he's "always concerned" with splitting the anti-Towns vote, especially after Towns beat him with just 47 percent in 2006, with Barron receiving 37 percent and a third challenger getting 15 percent. But Barron that he wasn't particularly concerned about Towns' other likely challenger, Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries, who has already raised more than $173,000 for a potential run. (Towns, by contrast, has just over $11,000 in cash on hand.)
"Me and Towns have some established votes," Barron said. "Hakeem can get all the unions he wants. For him to beat me, Hakeem is going to have to raise $1 million dollars just to finish a respectable third. Just to be respectable, because I want him to be respectable in third. Because he's not known outside his district. You don't just wake up one morning and decide you want to be congressperson."
"You haven't established a voting base or name recognition outside your district. And if you think you can buy that or get a bunch of unions behind you or get your two daddies—Cuomo and what's his name, Vito Lopez—thinking they can make you, you got another thought coming."
Jeffries has criticized Barron as a perpetual candidate, having declared at various points for Congress, governor, mayor, and borough president.
"What a silly response," Barron said, laughing. "Tell him he's got to come up with something better than that, I'm always running for something. So what? That's not an intelligent response. I can run for anything I want to run for. There's a reason I run for things."
The reason, he said, was to build his profile and advance the goals of the Freedom Party.
"Tell Mr. Hakeem Jeffries to come to my political education class 101 and I'll explain to him why you run for offices so that you can build a movement. That he knows nothing about, because it don't include him," he said.
He said the mayor's race, which he was only in "for a hot minute," was to get more people involved, and that he aborted his candidacy for borough president in 2009 because term limits were extended. He followed through on his campaign for governor last year, but finished with only 24,572 votes, between Jimmy McMillan of the Rent Is Too Damn High Party and Kristin Davis, the "Manhattan Madam."
But the congressional race would not be an exercise in profile-building.
"This one, we're running to win," he said. "We believe we can win this one."
And he was already thinking ahead to the logistics of the race in deciding to have his possible announcement in East New York.
"I was going to go to City Hall, maybe Borough Hall, downtown Brooklyn," he said. "But I think this time around I'm going to get more endorsements, so I could use those places for endorsement press conferences and use this one to launch, in the district, in the community."