A spirited newcomer’s uphill race against a rarely challenged 26-year-congressman is sputtering down to the very end — but in some ways, it hasn’t officially started.
Congressional hopeful and former MTV “Real World” star Kevin Powell has been campaigning on a platform of change and “young genius” in a fight to unseat Rep. Ed Towns in a district that stretches from northern Brooklyn Heights through Fort Greene and central Brooklyn to East New York, but rookie mistakes have plagued the 42-year-old upstart’s unorthodox, under-funded campaign from the beginning.
In fact, he hasn’t even properly registered as a candidate, according to a letter posted on the Federal Election Commission Web site that was leaked by Towns’s campaign to The Brooklyn Paper and other media outlets.
According to the FEC, Powell started accepting campaign donations without ever officially declaring his candidacy, though he has until Sept. 12 — three days after the primary — to sort out the paperwork. Powell spokeswoman Erica Perkins said the campaign merely failed to update campaign records from Powell’s aborted 2006 run.
“This was an administrative oversight,” she said.
Powell also failed to file his latest campaign finance report before the Aug. 28 deadline — a tactic that some candidates use when they are either trying to hide who their donors are, or hide how little they’ve raised.
In Powell’s case, it could be the latter: Aiming to court a youthful demographic, Powell threw rap concerts instead of fundraisers and distributed mix-tapes instead of mailers, but despite campaign aims of raising between $350,000 and $400,000, he was only able to net $46,607, through June, according to his July filing.
Perkins said that the Aug. 28 filing “has been delayed due to a problem in our program software.”
The latest missteps are nothing new for the Powell campaign, which has bounced from slip-up to slip-up, starting with comedian Dave Chappelle’s much-publicized no-show at a July fundraiser and the campaign’s failure to release its often-touted policy book detailing the candidate’s vision for the 10th District.
Later, Powell even violated one of the cardinal rules of politics — don’t remind the voters of skeletons in your own closet — by calling a press conference to say he’s a changed man from the person depicted in a Daily News column about his history of violence.
Even Powell’s attempts to gain traction with voters sometimes missed the mark. With a group of Hasidic Jews in July, Powell joked that he would “bring home the bacon” for the Kosher voters.
In an endorsement interview with The Brooklyn Paper editorial board, Powell dropped a shocking — and virtually impossible to verify — allegation that a Towns operative tried to fix the election by attempting to convince Powell to drop out so that Towns would have an easy re-election and that his son, Assemblyman Darryl Towns, could be set up to succeed his father in 2010.
Then, according to Powell’s version of the story, both Townses would actively campaign for Powell to take Darryl Towns’s seat in Albany.
There are two major problems with Powell’s tale: he refused to identify the person who allegedly advanced the deal, and the Towns camp emphatically denied it.
Meanwhile, Towns — a 13-term veteran — has run anything but a flawless campaign.
The 74-year-old incumbent has repeatedly dodged Powell’s calls for a debate, and missed appearances with important members of Williamburg’s Jewish community.
Towns also stood behind Sen. Hillary Clinton long after his district overwhelmingly backed Sen. Barack Obama for president.
In the final frantic days before the Sept. 9 primary, Powell continued his campaign’s attempts to reach young voters with a Sept. 3 fundraiser boasting once-relevant rappers Naughty by Nature and Black Sheep.
Towns also picked up his pace, packing his schedule with meet-and-greets and grip-and-grins — shaking hands and kissing babies at the DeKalb Avenue subway station, speaking at a press conference about the $355,000 he secured for St. Francis College’s new asthma education program, chatting up health care issues at Woodhull Hospital in Williamsburg, and joining Rep. James E. Clyburn (D–South Carolina) at a senior center — all before noon on Sept. 4.