Battle for the $oul of Brooklyn: Obama and Clinton fighting ZIP by ZIP

Battle for the $oul of Brooklyn: Obama and Clinton fighting ZIP by ZIP
Cristian Fleming

Park Slope has officially caught Obama Fever. And Brooklyn Heights is filled with rabid Clintonistas.

That’s the only conclusion this grizzled political insider can make after spending the weekend curled up with my favorite book: the Democratic presidential candidates’ second-quarter fundraising reports!

Nationally, of course, Obama is whipping Clinton like a rented Grand Canyon mule, raising nearly $59 million from individuals, compared to her $52 million.

But in Brooklyn, New York’s junior senator has been cruising, tabulating $423,740 to his $220,456 so far.

Clinton is strongest in Brooklyn Heights, where she raised $61,360 between April and June. By comparison, Obama collected “only” $38,724 in the Gold Coast known as the 11201 ZIP code.

But in Park Slope’s peace-loving, shade-grown 11215, Obama stormed back, raising $24,877 to Clinton’s $11,100 (for other neighborhoods, see map).

Enough with the numbers. Can’t you see what’s happening here? We’re in the middle of a battle for the soul of Brooklyn.

In this corner, Sen. Clinton, bolstered by a much-loved (no pun intended) husband, years of experience and a well-calculated move to the center. Scars include her much-reviled vote to support the use of force in Iraq and that well-calculated move to the center.

In the other corner, the even-more-junior Senator from Illinois, weighing in at, well, not much weight at all. But he opposed the war! And he’s African-American! And he’s progressive!

Let’s get ready to rumble. Top Democrats were eager to join the fray.

“Park Slope likes Obama because the neighborhood is much more anti-war and pro-activism, while Brooklyn Heights is more old-line establishment,” said Alan Fleishman, one of two Democratic leaders for the assembly district that spans both neighborhoods.

“The Heights also has the corporate money, the Wall Street money, and those people believe Hillary will be the nominee and they want to go with a winner.”

What, and Slopers like to lose?

“Not lose, but they’re a little more edgy and idealistic,” Fleishman said.

Edgy and idealistic were certainly not the words that came to mind when Rep. Yvette Clarke, after months of hemming and hawing, finally endorsed Clinton last week.

“After careful deliberations … I am convinced that Sen. Clinton is best able to win and bring much-needed change to the White House,” said Clarke, whose district includes parts of the Slope and the Heights. “The depth of Hillary’s experience will allow her to hit the ground running on her first day in office.”

Clinton’s supporters in the Heights also emphasized their candidate’s years in government as a positive thing.

“She’s bright, she’s competent, and she’s shown she can work across the aisle — she’s got it all,” said Margaret McClure, who has donated $1,100 to the Clinton campaign. “I guess Obama does, too, but it’s not his time yet. He’ll be a great president someday, but not now.”

But what about the war? Clinton famously voted to allow President Bush to invade Iraq — and now is running so fast from that vote that she’s leaving burn marks on the House rug.

“Well, Obama says he wasn’t for the war, but he wasn’t even in the Senate, so we don’t know what he would’ve done,” McClure said. “We were all greatly misled on this war business.”

Of course, Park Slopers were quick to point out that Clinton now says she was lied to by President Bush before casting her war vote — but shouldn’t her supposedly deep experience have allowed her to see through the president’s lies?

“Maybe there’s some mistrust of Hillary’s tendency to triangulate and seek the ‘centrist’ position rather than standing up for something,” said Obama supporter and Park Slope resident Stephen Warnke, who gave the Illinois senator $500. “I know that I like Obama’s strong and consistent position against the war in contrast to Hillary.”

This battle for the soul of Brooklyn is so heated that it’s engulfing residents of other neighborhoods.

Former City Councilman Sal Albanese lives in Bay Ridge — where Clinton out-raised Obama, $16,300 to $734 — yet wrote Obama a $1,000 check.

Et tu, Sal?

“I saw him on Larry King and I’m impressed with him,” Albanese said. “The Clintons have been around for a long time and people want fresh faces. Except in the Heights.”

How far will this battle go? Tune in on Tuesday, when Obama attends a big-ticket fundraiser in the heart of Hillary Country: Brooklyn Heights.

Borough haul: Although Illinois Sen. Barack Obama raised more money nationwide than our own Sen. Hillary Clinton last quarter, in Brooklyn, Clinton beat back the Obama challenge, raising $255,034 to his $135,912. But a breakdown shows that Obama actually raised more money than Clinton in some key neighborhoods.
Source: Federal Election Commission, candidate filings, April–June, 2007