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Owens writes a new tune, but rivals have reasons to sing

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Chris Owens wants to take after his father in more ways than one.

The would-be legislator — whose dad, Major Owens, is famously known as “The Rappin’ Representa­tive” — released a song on Monday night criticizing the Iraq war.

Owens updated a reggae-tinged tune he wrote 22 years ago to protest Ronald Reagan’s nuclear arms policy:

“This is Chris Owens sending this song out to George Bush and the radical Right. We need to get our priorities straight and save this world. We need some love. Because we know love is the way.”

The timing of its release was not accidental.

The song debuted on the eve of a Park Slope appearance by anti-war Rep. John Murtha (D–Penn.), who endorsed City Councilwoman Yvette Clarke (D-Flatbush) for the 11th District seat currently occupied by Owens’s father.

Murtha admitted his endorsement of Clarke didn’t have much to do with the war, which all four candidates oppose.

“I like her personality,” said Murtha. “She’s very straightforward, and she asked me for my endorsement.”

Murtha also cited Clarke’s support for cancer and diabetes research, battered women, and her friendship with Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-Sheepshead Bay), a once-and-future mayoral candidate who co-hosted Tuesday’s town hall meeting at the Park Slope United Methodist Church.

Clarke was clearly hoping to expand her base from Crown Heights to liberal Park Slope, but most of the middle-aged women in the crowd wore pins supporting Owens, who is far more identified with the anti-war movement.

Clarke’s good week overshadowed some bad news — she was not only forced to admit that she had not graduated from Oberlin College, but also had to respond to new reports that she was once taken to court over unpaid student loans.

The next day, her Council rival, David Yassky (D–Brooklyn Heights) got the endorsement of the New York Times, which has a significant impact among some liberal voters.

Endorsements themselves don’t mean anything, but they often reveal a lot about a candidate’s campaign:

• Clarke is positioning herself as the woman’s candidate, having picked up endorsements from Emily’s List, and Local 1199 of the Service Employees International Union.

• State Sen. Carl Andrews (D-Crown Heights) is the establishment candidate, having been backed by 20 state lawmakers, including his former boss, Attorney General Eliot Spitzer. He’s also the choice of the United Federation of Teachers, the Public Employee Federation, and New York State AFL-CIO.

• Despite his fundraising prowess, Yassky is running the outsider campaign, chalking up no endorsements from elected officials, unless you count Brownsville Democratic district leader Lisa Kenner, according to campaign manager Gregory Joseph.

But Yassky does have the support of developers, including controversial architect Robert Scarano, whose planned fundraiser for the councilman this week was cancelled when the press started asking questions about Yassky’s link to an architect who was recently disciplined by the city.

Yassky even lost the support of one elected official — Assemblyman James Brennan (D–Park Slope) — who supported him for Council in 2001. Brennan is backing Owens because of his opposition to the war.

“He’s a staunch liberal,” Brennan said of Owens.

Yassky does have the support of the League of Conservation Voters, and three signers of the Atlantic Yards Community Benefits Agreement, despite the fact that Andrews and Clarke support the project without Yassky’s caveats. (Owens opposes the project entirely.)

• Owens is positioning himself as the most liberal of the four candidates and a perfect fit with the Congressional Black Caucus, which has endorsed him. He’s also won the backing of ImpeachPAC and the Sierra Club, which shares his opposition to Atlantic Yards.

Updated 4:00 pm, November 10, 2010
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