9:48 am Jun. 22, 20122
The fear that Charles Barron might actually win next week's primary for a Brooklyn-Queens congressional seat has triggered a flood of contributions from all across the country to his opponent, Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries.
Barron, a former Black Panther, has long been known in New York political circles for his racial rhetoric and his professed admiration for international-pariah dictators like Muammar Khadafy and Robert Mugabe, but particularly attention has been focused in the national media in the last couple of weeks on his anti-Israel rhetoric. Among other things, he has compared conditions in Gaza to those in Nazi concentration camps.
On Monday alone, Jeffries raised a combined $37,500 from donors in New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Louisiana, Illinois, Georgia, Virginia, Tennessee, Ohio and California. Most of the donations were individual contributions of $1,000; the World Alliance for Israel PAC gave $5,000.
That one-day total is more than Barron had raised for his entire campaign through June 6, not counting Barron's own contributions.
Jeffries has also collected from Florida, Pennsylvania, and Texas in recent weeks, adding tens of thousands of dollars to the $375,000 he reported having on hand in early June, and giving the campaign an unexpected surplus to spend down the home stretch.
The increase in donations to Jeffries, who had already put together a broad coalition of institutional supporters, coincided with the endorsement of Barron by the retiring Representative Ed Towns on June 4 and subsequent increase in the seriousness with which the media began treating his prospects ahead of the June 26 primary.
Only a handful of donations from outside the area appear on Jeffries' pre-primary filing, which covered donations from April 1 to June 6.
Barron has been trying to shift the conversation away from his controversial comments and focus on his constituent work, but national Democrats and newspaper editorials have been sounding the alarm, warning of what a Barron candidacy might mean for the party and the Middle East.
The scenario is somewhat reminiscent of one from 2002, when supporters of Israel rallied to defeat Georgia congresswoman Cynthia McKinney in a primary one observer called "a little Middle East proxy war."
McKinney's opponent out-raised her by nearly two-to-one and, with some crossover help from Republican voters in the state's open primary, McKinney lost by a wide margin. (After the race, McKinney's father attributed the loss to "J-E-W-S" who "bought everybody.)
Pro-Israel donors rallied again in 2006 when, after winning her seat back two years earlier, McKinney found herself in a surprisingly competitive primary against the current congressman, Hank Johnson, who won soundly in the run-off.
I asked Jeffries after an event in Bedford-Stuyvesant last night how he felt about his campaign becoming a national cause.
"We're going to remain focused on the issues that are relevant to the people in the communities like Bedford-Stuyvesant, like affordable housing, safe streets and a strong economy," he said.