By JOSEPH MODICA
This year, Republicans didn’t mount a fight for any of Brooklyn’s congressional districts.
“What’s the point?” said Marine Park resident Yellena Hopper. “[New York] hasn’t voted Republican since Reagan.”
In keeping with that, the campaign in New York’s Eighth Congressional District in neighborhoods ranging from Bedford-Stuyvesant to Canarsie and Coney Island was almost silent/
Running for the Democrats, incumbent Hakeem Jeffries, 46, won an easy victory with 93 percent of the vote. He’s had his seat in the 8th district since 2013 and previously served six years in the state Assembly. His opponent, Daniel Cavanagh, 58, is a father of three and a supervisor for the city Sanitation Department, is on the Conservative Party line. The Republican Party did not field a candidate, but Cavanagh identifies with it.
“I’ve been voting Republican since I was able to vote,” Cavanagh said in a phone interview. Cavanagh, who has been active in his community, Gerritsen Beach,said his concerns include getting the city not to stand in the way of businesses; how immigration is handled, and how the city responded to Hurricane Sandy.
“In Queens, Brooklyn, Staten Island, nothing’s done,” he said. “ . . . The congressmen who represented the 8th and the 9th have done diddly-squat.” Cavanagh ran in 2014 in the neighboring Ninth Congressional District, losing to Democrat Yvette Clarke with 9.6 percent of the vote on the Conservative line.
Democratic candidate Jeffries raised $1.2 million in campaign donations, a majority from law firms, real estate and investment businesses. His opponent Cavanagh raised no money for his campaign.
“If I had $100,000 in my pocket I’d have a real campaign. Congressional races, state ones, you’ll have to make your own funds,” said Cavanagh. But, he added, “I can do fairly well. Lots of people know who I am; I expect to do fairly well with my name.”
Jeffries did not respond to a request for an interview.
His campaign website says that as a member of the House Judiciary Committee, he is “committed to fixing the institutional flaws in the criminal justice system.” Jeffries, an attorney, has also stressed the importance of “strong legal protection for entrepreneurs in the copyright and intellectual property area,” a subject he has worked on in Congress.
Cavanagh doesn’t have a campaign website. Nor will he have the opportunity to debate his opponent.
Residents of the district, which is majority black (56 percent) and has a large number of whites in the southern sections (29.7 percent), take the lack of activity in a local election in stride – it’s rare that there is a real contest for a congressional or state legislative seat.
But some of the neighborhoods to the south, such as Marine Park and Gerritsen Beach, helped to elect Republican Bob Turner to Congress in 2011. That Queens-southern Brooklyn seat was eliminated in redistricting. Nonetheless, some parts of the districts are potentially ripe areas for conservative candidates.
“Individuals should take more responsibility for themselves,” says Kerry Springer, a Marine Park resident who said he plans to vote Conservative. Springer is a business development manager who is worried about how traditional family values, economics and immigration are handled in his neighborhood.
Eanny Zucker, a retired teacher, also plans on casting a Conservative ballot this election, citing his most pressing concern as taxes. Some residents are also on the wall about whom they’re choosing, like resident Nicholas Kawinilas, a retiree who’s worried about the economy and job growth for the next generation. Jody Duncan, a nanny, does not plan to vote, but is concerned with community development and that there are not enough “programs for the youth.”
Marine Park resident Joseph Dwydr described his experience with Jefferies. “I don’t know what Hakeem Jeffries does for me,” he said bluntly.
Dwydr is a retired army veteran and manager of a housing co-op that primarily houses elderly tenants on Social Security. Originally, he was satisfied with his Democratic representatives, seeing services like Access-A-Ride and City Meals on Wheels benefiting the elderly, but says the services waned in recent years.
Despite such potential support, it appears that Cavanagh is not campaigning in any meaningful way. When asked if he plans on running next election, he said “Yes I will plan on running again, probably on the same district and bid.”
Jeffries, meanwhile, has emerged increasingly as a citywide figure after two terms in Congress. He has been nudged to run against Mayor Bill de Blasio – Gov. Andrew Cuomo is said to favor him – but he has denied any plans to enter the 2017 mayoral campaign.
According to The New York Times, many people who are fed up de Blasio want him to run. But Jeffries has “no interest in running for mayor of the City of New York,” according to a recent interview he did with DNAinfo. If he does decide to run, he can expect a warm welcome from many within his party and would likely prove a challenging opponent to de Blasio.