Towns' exit sets up a flush Hakeem Jeffries against a poor Charles Barron

Charles Barron announcing his run for Congress. (Reid Pillifant)
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With 15-term incumbent Ed Towns officially announcing that he won't seek re-election, the campaign for the new eighth congressional district in Brooklyn now becomes a two-man race, at least in theory.

On one side is Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries, a Democrat who has lined up the backing of nearly every influential local constituency, including national charter-school advocates, Manhattan donors, big unions and the Brooklyn machine; on the other side is Councilman Charles Barron, a Democrat who, characteristically, hasn't sought out much in the way of financial or institutional support.

Yesterday Barron reported raising $42,089, which included $40,000 in donations from himself. Barron had previously, proudly, proclaimed that he wouldn't raise money much money for the race, and that he doesn't need to.

In 2006, despite raising just $132,000, Barron gave Towns a serious scare, finishing just ten points behind the 25-year incumbent, who was probably aided by the presence of a third primary candidate, Assemblyman Roger Green.

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Barron has often touted that race as evidence of his ability to manufacture votes without much money, but in 2006, he was widely considered the chief alternative to Towns, which made for a much different dynamic than this year, when he had mostly been an afterthought in what was widely seen as a showdown between Towns and Jeffries.

That should change now, and perhaps amplify Barron's attacks on Jeffries. Barron has criticized Jeffries' support for charter schools and called him a "puppet" of the Brooklyn chairman Vito Lopez, who he considers one of the assemblyman's "two daddies." (The other being Governor Andrew Cuomo, who Barron ran against for governor in 2010.)

Jeffries meanwhile, was proceeding apace even before Towns' announcement. On Saturday, he opened a new campaign office in front of a few dozen supporters, and three reporters. Jeffries took a few questions after the event, saying Towns was employing a "Rose Garden strategy" and that he was still preparing for the congressman as if he would be a candidate.

There weren't any questions about Barron.

Towns made his own decision official on Monday morning, releasing a statement through his spokesman Hank Sheinkopf:

“After months of long family discussions, I have decided not to seek reelection for my seat in the United State House of Representatives. I am very grateful for the support I have received over the years. I believe firmly that we would have won a 16th term had we

decided to run.

"I am proud to have brought millions of dollars into my district for much needed improvements, fought corruption on Wall Street as Chair of the Congressional Oversight Committee and helped to bring healthcare to millions of uninsured Americans as a

devoted advocate of healthcare reform. It has been an honor to have fought so that the people of New York can have more opportunities and a chance to live better lives.”