Out of Towns: Veteran Rep. Ed Towns to retire

Hakeem’s dream — Ed Towns’s seat in Congress
The Brooklyn Paper / Michael Lipkin

Rep. Ed Towns is calling it quits after more than a quarter century in Congress.

The veteran Democratic lawmaker will retire at the end of this term, ending a Washington legacy that began in 1983 and allowing the longtime legislator to avoid a contested primary for a newly redrawn district that includes Fort Greene, Clinton Hill, parts of Downtown, Canarsie, Coney Island, Brighton Beach, Mill Basin, and Marine Park.

“After months of long family discussions, I have decided not to seek reelection for my seat in the United State House of Representatives,” said Towns in a statement released by his campaign Monday morning. “I am very grateful for the support we have received over the years. I believe firmly that we would have won a 16th term had we decided to run.”

Towns, 77, spent much of the weekend alerting community leaders that he will not defend his seat in this summer’s primary against state Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries (D–Fort Greene) and City Councilman Charles Barron (D–Canarsie) — both of whom have been campaigning since last year.

The race between Jeffries and Towns was expected to be close, and one political insider told The Brooklyn Paper that the longtime legislator is choosing to bow out rather than face an unpredictable election in a new district.

“He didn’t want to go out on a losing note,” the source said. “This would have been the most difficult race of his career.”

Towns — who once served as Chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reforms Committee — handily defeated his most recent challenger, activist and former “Real World” star Kevin Powell, by snagging 69 percent of the vote.

But his 2012 campaign got off to a slow start. Towns only had $11,000 on hand last October, and even though he managed to raise $194,000 through March and stashed away about $254,000 in his war chest, Jeffries outpaced him, raising $237,000 this past quarter and reporting just under $400,000 to spend before the June 26 primary.

In February a Towns spokesman told this publication the Congressman was “committed to running.”

But last week, Towns’s campaign strategist Hank Sheinkopf was noncommittal when asked whether the pol was serious about staying in the race.

Towns supporters said his retirement marked “the end of an era.”

“Though we disagreed at times, I believe Towns can be proud of his legacy,” said Democratic District Leader Chris Owens. “Now it is up to the eighth district voters to select a fresh yet accomplished voice — a new representative who will deliver on the ground for communities while fighting in the air for the principles of justice and equality.”