’Tis the season for Democratic challengers • Brooklyn Paper

’Tis the season for Democratic challengers

An upstart challenger is mounting a serious campaign to oust long-time Rep. Yvette Clarke (D–Flatbush), having already raised about a quarter of the incumbent’s cash on hand.

Crown Heights resident Adem Bunkeddeko wants to unseat Clarke because he says she has little to show for her time in Congress, where she has served since 2007. Clarke, who once called President Trump “illegitimate,” has made resisting him a focal point of her representation since his election — but issues facing working families, such as affordable housing, economic and social injustice, and dealing with poor public transportation have been around since long before Trump rose to power, Bunkeddeko said.

“There isn’t a single Democrat who is not talking about the fact that Mr. Trump is someone who should not be in the presidency. Doing what is average — speaking out against Trump — is one thing, what more is she doing to tackle the issues facing working families?” said Bunkeddeko, who has $120,949 in his campaign coffers, compared to Clarke’s $420,428. “I’ve seen a number of families over the years sliding backwards, and I haven’t seen Ms. Clarke really give voice to those whose voices aren’t heard. It’s not enough to simply fight against Trump — we need to fight for families trying to make it in this city and country.”

Bunkeddeko, whose parents fled war-torn Uganda as refugees, graduated from Harvard Business School and went on to serve his community through several local do-gooder organizations, and campaign for Working Families Party candidates. But now he’s ready to step out from behind the scenes and run his own election to both fight against the White House, and for his would-be constituents — his full time job is now knocking on doors, he said.

“We haven’t had a voice in the Congress, we need to speak up that for that — an administration that is bent on turning back a fundamental part of our country, black and brown folks surrounded around issues in criminal justice, not even taking into account infrastructure,” he said.

The 30-year-old also criticized Clarke for not passing any legislation and pledged to do more to get bills passed. He has at least three ideas for legislation if he wins the seat, including one that would provide access to affordable housing and a pathway to ownership for those who make less than $80,000 annually, bail reform to make bail based on flight risk rather than on the person’s ability to pay, and helping students eliminate their debt, he said.

“Ms. Clarke has been there over a decade and hasn’t passed a single bill,” Bunkeddeko said.

But Clarke, who previously served in the city Council, has made a strong impact in the community, whose residents will have a chance to choose their next representative during the election, said her campaign spokeswoman.

“Congresswoman Yvette Clarke is running on her record, and come primary day, the voters will decide,” said Ronnie Oliva.

The two Democrats will face off in a primary in September, the winner of which will run unopposed in November.

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Councilman Jumaane Williams (D–Midwood), who lost his campaign for city Council Speaker, officially threw his hat in the ring to become Gov. Cuomo’s right hand man last week.

Williams announced his run for Lieutenant Governor on Feb. 16 at City Hall, and he has already landed support from the activist group People for Bernie Sanders.

The state’s number two job should be more than just an empty suit, and actually help fight for the people, said Williams, who also criticized the Albany leadership’s lack of diversity.

“The Lieutenant Governor position needs to be more than ribbon cutting and rubber stamping. I want to be the people’s advocate in Albany, pushing the Governor and the legislature to enact the progressive policies that are the promise of our state,” said Williams, who has $8,900 in his war chest. “I want to represent the diverse needs of the people of our state — and by the way, our state government could use some diversity.”

Williams will face incumbent Kathy Hochul in a September primary.

• • •

Another Brooklyn Mayor?

Public Advocate Tish James may be eyeing the top job at City Hall.

Buzzfeed News reported that the former Crown Heights councilwoman, who still calls Brooklyn home, plans to mount a run for Mayor in 2021. Mayor DeBlasio is term-limited.

James registered an undeclared campaign committee with the city’s Campaign Finance Board for the 2021 city-wide elections and a Letitia James 2021 committee with the state, records show.

A rep for her campaign didn’t immediately comment on her committees, both of which currently have a balance of $0, and would only say she’s focused on serving out her term as Public Advocate.

“Tish is focused on continuing her work to be an effective Public Advocate, standing up for working families and the most vulnerable New Yorkers,” the spokeswoman said.

Reach reporter Julianne Cuba at (718) 260–4577 or by e-mail at jcuba@cnglocal.com. Follow her on Twitter @julcuba.

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