Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries, of the 57th District (Clinton Hill, Prospect Heights) has formed a congressional exploratory committee, Politicker reports. Jeffries, a personal, well-educated, well-dressed 40-year-old, is seen as something of a comer in Brooklyn Democratic politics; he’s been touted as an Obama-like crossover figure. As the districts are currently drawn, he’d be challenging the 10th district’s incumbent-for-life, Ed Towns, should he run.
Of course, the new boundaries of Brooklyn’s congressional districts are somewhat up in the air, pending redistricting following last year’s Census—new districts, and demographics, may lend more uncertainty than usual to next year’s primaries. Assemblyman Jeffries has some experience with redistricting, viewers of Jeff Reichert’s Gerrymandering will recall, having had his house drawn out of the 57th by vulnerable incumbent Roger Green in 2002.
District and neighborhood boundaries are something of a pet issue for Jeffries—he successfully cosponsored a bill to end prison-based gerrymandering in New York State, and he recently got Corcoran to stop using their real estate listings to expand Prospect Heights into Crown Heights.
This could be seen as something of a sandbag levee constructed against the creep of gentrification; Jeffries’s other recent pet project, Project Reclaim, aims to fill unfinished and under-occupied boom-era condo developments with low- and middle-income tenants. (Which is not to say that he’s gone full populist: he was a noted fence-sitter on Atlantic Yards.)
Ed Towns, for his part, was first elected to Congress in 1982 (the seat opened up after redistricting). He was last seen mounting an inscrutable campaihagn for the District Leader position vacated by his son Daryl, who took a job in the Cuomo administration, and whom he may want to succeed him.
Towns was due to be the ranking member of the House Oversight Committee, but dropped out of the race after pressure from Democratic leadership, and possibly the White House, who felt he wouldn’t be an effective counterpoint to Darrell Issa.
Towns is pretty well ensconced in his seat, having swatted away increasingly pathetic primary challenges from Season 1 Real World star Kevin Powell the last couple election cycles. Jeffries, should he run, would be a fish of an altogether different color. Also on the list of Young African-American Brooklyn Pols Who Are Not Going to Wait Forever, by all accounts, is the second-term City Councilwoman Letitia “Tish” James, who would, if elected to congress, bear a rather uncanny resemblance to the House member played by Queen Latifah on 30 Rock that time.