Second to no one

A group of ornery Brooklyn Democrats has effectively said it would rather have no one representing it in Congress than Rep. Yvette Clarke.

Central Brooklyn Independent Democrats — a progressive liberal clubhouse — denied Clarke (D–Park Slope) its support on May 22, handing “No endorsement” a stunning, 52–48 victory.

The club is now led by Chris Owens, who ran against Clarke for the open seat in 2006 — but the CBID president (and son of the congressman whom Clarke replaced) denied that he rigged the clubhouse vote to embarrass his former rival.

“This is a cantankerous, progressive club and I made no behind-the-scenes phone calls against Yvette,” said Owens. “I did nothing to color the process in any way. The fact is that if you want our endorsement, you’re expected to vote a certain way. People have not been satisfied enough with Yvette’s performance.”

Owens specifically cited Clarke’s continued support for the Atlantic Yards project, her rejection of a bill that would create a government-run, single-payer health care system, and her ongoing support for Sen. Hillary Clinton’s presidential run, despite a lopsided victory in her district by Sen. Barack Obama in the Feb. 5 New York Primary.

But Clarke has been a strong supporter of impeaching Vice President Cheney — long a liberal dream — and several progressive institutions, such as the American Civil Liberties Union, have given her 100-percent ratings.

Owens will be a delegate for Obama at the Democratic National Convention this August in Denver — but, again, he dismissed that as a mere coincidence.

“Members of the club are outraged that she would ignore Obama’s 59 percent vote in her district and still support Hillary as a superdelegate,” Owens said. “I have always congratulated Yvette on her good votes, but this is a progressive club and we expect better.”

At a press conference on Thursday, she said she was unfazed by the club’s vote, because the Central Brooklyn Independent Democrats didn’t support her in the 2006 race either.

“Nothing gained, nothing lost,” Clarke told The Brooklyn Paper. “You can’t lose what you never had.”

In a recent interview with the New York Observer, a Manhattan newspaper, she downplayed the idea that her support for Clinton would come back to haunt her.

“There’s been some indication in some parts of the country with some members that, you know, there have been, I guess, unintended consequences around their support for the Clinton campaign,” she Clarke. “I don’t get that feeling here. … We didn’t have a landslide in the 11th congressional district, so I don’t think it’s quite the same as in other districts where it was a wider margin of victory.”

In other business, the club passed a resolution calling upon Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe to “respect the results of democratic elections…and allow his nation to heal and progress.”

Updated Friday, May 30, 2008; 2:46 pm.

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