Hakeem Jeffries and the downside of having lots of political friends
Earlier this year, Brooklyn assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries toppled the longtime incumbent Ed Towns, and won the Democratic nomination in what's expected to be an easy coast to Congress in early November.
Now comes the hard part.
Jeffries assembled such a broad coalition for his own candidacy—encompassing leaders from the county committee to the reform faction, and all points in between—that 2013 will inevitably make for some tough choices between candidates who presume the new congressman will be returning the favor.
Last week, in a story about the nascent candidacy of Brooklyn attorney Kenneth Thompson, the New York Times reported that Thompson was challenging Charles Hynes, the longtime Brooklyn district attorney, with the support of Jeffries, who Thompson introduced at the assemblyman's congressional kick-off.
But today, Jeffries' camp issued a statement clarifying that the assemblyman has yet to take an official position on Thompson's race, or on any of the other contests next year.
“Over the last several weeks, there has been a great deal of speculation and conjecture about the involvement of Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries in a variety of different races that will take place next year," said Lupe Todd, a spokeswoman for Jeffries. "The assemblyman, currently the Democratic nominee for the 8th Congressional district, is focused on winning the general election, then hopefully a transition, and thereafter working on his legislative and community responsibilities.
"Assemblyman Jeffries has not endorsed in any of the races for 2013, including the Fort Greene-based City Council seat and the race for Brooklyn District Attorney, and has no plans to do so in the foreseeable future.”
"Council seat" is a reference to the jockeying already underway to replace Tish James, who is presumed to be running for public advocate; the race could feature five or six candidates, with most of them angling for Jeffries' endorsement.
There's also the prospect of another contentious Council race, between district leader Lincoln Restler, and Stephen Levin, the freshman councilman who won in 2009 with the strong support of Vito Lopez and the county committee.
Jeffries has a good relationship with the new county leader, Frank Seddio, who is expected to back Hynes, a longtime favorite of the county, and would seem likely to back Levin too. (Jeffries and Seddio also share a campaign consultant, George Arzt Communications.)
After his big congressional win, Jeffries is positioned as the de facto leader of a group of young black leaders in central Brooklyn, and his support could give credibility to a first-time candidate like Thompson, who he met as an intern in the Eastern District, or provide a boost to any of the mayoral candidates, if and when he decides to get involved in 2013.