By Florence Mafomemeh
The Democratic primary in New York’s 60th Assembly District is one of the races to watch. The contentious battle to fill Charles Barron’s recently vacated Assembly seat which began in February’s special election continues into the midterms primary.
Barron left the seat open when he moved back to his old seat at the New York City Council. The special election pitted Nikki Lucas against Keron Alleyne. Lucas won by 80 percent while Alleyne had 18 percent according to BOE results.
The midterms primary, set for June 28, will be a rematch of February’s special election. The race, which is one of the most heated in this year’s New York State Assembly Democratic Primary, has attracted politicians from both sides of the Democratic Party.
Alleyne, who is backed by Charles and Inez Barron and running under the umbrella of the Working Family Party has so far been endorsed by Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio Cortez and Public Advocate Jumaane Williams. Two State Senators, four Assembly Members including Assemblymember Phara Souffrant Forrest and former New York gubernatorial candidate Cynthia Nixon have thrown their support behind Alleyne. A Slew of nine organizations including TenantsPAC, Democratic Socialists of America, and New York Progressive Action are also backing Alleyne. In a tweet, Ocasio-Cortez, assured Alleyne that she has his back. “We’ve got your back @KeronAlleyne thank you for running,” Ocasio-Cortez tweeted.
Meanwhile, the Democratic establishment including Governor Kathy Hochul lines up behind Lucas with endorsements from Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, State Senator Roxanne Persaud, Retired Rep. Ed Towns, Mayor Eric Adams, AG Tish James, and others. Also, 12 organizations including the United Federation of Teachers, Council of School Supervisors and Administrators, Vote Mama and Voters For Animal Rights are also backing Lucas.
Brooklyn’s 60th State Assembly District, which covers East New York, Starrett City, Brownsville, and Canarsie, has become another battleground that showcases the ongoing infighting in the Democratic party. Recently, it has turned into a fight between Mayor Adams and Democratic Socialist, Ocasio-Cortez.
In order to curb the insurgence of socialists led by Ocasio-Cortez running in the upcoming June 28 Democratic primary, Mayor Adams is putting his political heavyweight behind veteran state Assembly incumbents being challenged. In an attempt to solidify his support for Lucas, galvanize support and give her campaign a much-needed boost, Adams toured problematic areas in East New York with Lucas to partner on solutions.
Lucas, the incumbent and a staunch critic of the Barrons said in a profile interview that she is running for office to create legislation and bring resources to the community, which she says have been lacking for the past 20 years. She touted her experience as a community advocate for 30 years.
“I am experienced in advocating for the community, including seniors, youth and families. I have great relationships with other elected officials, which will allow us to work together to bring much needed resources to the community. For the past 20 years the district has been suffering. My opponent is supported by the system that has been in charge for the past 20 years, which has us stuck in the 20th century,” Lucas said.
Meanwhile Alleyne, who has been a local community gardener for six years and is currently the deputy district manager at Community Board 5 said he is running to bring radical change and make sure Black radical politics stays alive in East New York, and to fight for the policies the people in the district and across the state deserve to live full lives.
“Our time really speaks to it. We live in a time where two plus years in a global pandemic, where we watch our friends, neighbors and families get afflicted with COVID and die. Within that same scope, nobody is talking about universal healthcare and making that a reality for our communities not only in East New York but across the state making sure that everyone has access to healthcare. We also live at a time where student Debt is at its highest peak. Why not push to make our CUNY and SUNY infrastructure free the way it used to be? That is radical,” Alleyne said.
With the race clearly a battle between the establishment and the socialist wing of the party, Lucas said partnerships within the party is what will bring the change needed by the people of the district. “I have the support from Congressman Hakeem Jeffries, Mayor Eric Adams, Senator Roxanne Persaud, AG Tish James, and others. These are partnerships that the district has not seen in the past. My opponent does not have these important partnerships, nor is he interested in these partnerships. He doesn’t understand that these are the partnerships that bring resources to the current residents of the community. His approach is going to cause mass gentrification. He is working with others outside of the community, who have no clue about the residents or the needs,” Lucas said.
But Alleyne, who stresses that the community deserves to have elected officials who are going to be fully accountable to the community, disagrees with Lucas’ partnerships strategy.
“We need to get to the root causes of these issues within this capitalist system and to have an elected official who’s not going to be worrying about who donated to my campaign, real estate, special interest, manufacturing. To have an elected official like me who’d be unchained in that respect,” Alleyne said.
Charles Barron, whose election to his old City Council seat in 2021 triggered the special election, and who threw his heavy weight behind Alleyne, agrees with him that allying with the establishment is not the answer to the district’s problems.
“We need people that are not puppets of the machine, puppets of Wall Street money, puppets of Real Estate money because that is what our opponents are, which is why they have more money backing them than we ever get and that’s why all these elected officials who are all connected to Wall Street and Real Estate are backed by our opponents,” Barron said.
He also said that Alleyne is by far the best most accomplished candidate with a proven track record that is by far better than any candidate in the race.
“Keron Alleyne was with me in the State Assembly. Keron Alleyne was the Deputy manager of Community Board 5. He was the one who helped us usher in both affordable housing and stop gentrification than any other black district in Brooklyn. He was the one that helped us bring in three new schools, seven new parks, thousands of jobs. He helped me in the funding of programs. No other candidate in the race can come anywhere near that,” Baron said.
Although both candidates say that affordable housing is the main issue facing the people of District 60, they have very different approaches to solving the problem. Lucas, a former Female District Leader and incumbent whose current term ends on January 1, 2023 said she’d work to make sure apartments remain affordable.
“I would support a policy that provides multi-family homeowners with tax breaks in exchange for guaranteeing that their apartments will remain at an affordable level, based on the specific neighborhood, not based on the income of all New Yorkers. Additionally, I would support keeping NYCHA out of the hands of private developers. NYCHA is the only true affordable housing portfolio that is owned by NYC,” the 52-year-old said.
But Alleyne, the current Deputy Manager of Community Board 5 who voted down the East New York rezone, said Good Cause Eviction is one policy he would support to make housing more affordable in New York City.
Barron, who Alleyne worked for in the State Assembly, and who Lucas has criticized for 20 years said they run campaigns on their accomplishments that their opponents can’t come near matching.
“We have 16 thousand units of real affordable housing. We brought crime down. You check crime statistics for the 75th Precinct since we’ve been in office from 2001 to 2021. Every category of crime is down. We got over 200 to 300 people out of homeless shelters into permanent homes. Nobody has done that in the history of East New York. We got the Prince Joshua Community center which is run by young people in our community. No one has done that. So you talking about someone who hasn’t done anything near that,” Barron said.
The Council Member added that they are radical, independent and against this racist capitalist system. “We have proven that through independence, we can bring much more to our people and our communities. We are for reparations. I got a reparations bill passed in the State Assembly that has never happened in the history of the State till I did that. We freed four political prisoners which never happened by anybody until we came into office. We are proven effective leaders that push radical politics and we win,” the longtime politician said.
The constituents of the district are also weighing in on the race. Some East New Yorkers, who have been used to seeing the Barrons on the ballot for two decades, are still getting used to the new candidates in this primary. Diane, a resident who already voted during the early vote, and would not say who she voted for, said the candidates are fresh and new within the community. “We need a lot of help in our district and we need a lot of fresh blood in our district,” She added.
However, some constituents who always voted for Charles and Inez Barron still don’t know the candidates running in the primary but still plan to vote. Yolanda Benjamin, a USPS employee who hasn’t voted yet said she doesn’t know the candidates much but votes sometimes just because she feels like it’s her right.
“Sometimes I don’t know them but I just go and I read. If I see your flier and I read something good about you, I’d just vote for you. If I see you talking about oh, trying to get stuff for young people, you got my vote. Right now it’s not about old people. It’s about the youth of today because they are the people who come after us. We get a lot of people who say oooh I’m gonna do this, I’m gonna do that and when they get in there, they do nothing,” Benjamin said.
Although Alleyne lost the special election to Lucas in February, he said despite the difficulties created by the OMICRON wave, his performance in that race gave him the confidence that he will win this time around.
“I’m extremely confident. We are going into a democratic primary right now where everyone is a democrat. In special elections, there can only be one person who has a Democratic Party line and the party chooses whoever they can control. That’s what ends up happening. We did put up a formidable fight on the Working Families Party line which was absolutely amazing,” the 32-year-old community gardener said.
He added that they got a bunch of Democrats to move to a different party line which was very special, and the high turnout in the primary which is different from the special election makes him optimistic.
“Although we didn’t get the result that we wanted, we didn’t lose. There was a lot that we won in that process. Coming in second in that regard is no issue. We just built more momentum for this movement as we go into this June primary. So I’m very, very confident. I think when community members look at my platform, look at what I stand for, look at my track record as a community member, literally one of them, yeah they would say we are definitely going with Keron Alleyne,” the Community Advocate said.
Charles Barron and his wife, Inez Barron, considered the political dynasty in the community, have held the Assembly seat since 2009. This year marks the first time that someone else will hold the seat in the state legislature.
Who will win this heated race? Will Lucas fend off the rising Alleyne and hold on to the seat or will Aleyne cement the hold of the Socialist wing of the party in East New York? June 28 will tell.
By Florence Mafomemeh