Democracy at Work in the 40th
For residents of the 40th council district in central Brooklyn, yesterday was Election Day, as 10 candidates vied to take the seat vacated by Yvette Clarke, who ascended to Congress back in November. Since none of the 10 have held elected office before (unless being St. Vincent's ambassador to the U.N. counts), the name of the game has been brand recognition: While some candidates in the heavily immigrant neighborhood played ethnic cards (Mohammad Razvi sent out letters appealing to Pakistani pride, while Jennifer James's campaign materials pointedly were festooned with American flags and "USA" pins), mostly the race has come down to burying prospective constituents beneath a blizzard of mailers and autodialers, in which it's nearly impossible to find anything approaching a policy position.
Yesterday's phone scorecard:
11:46 a.m.: "Hi, this is Yvette Clarke..." begins an automated message endorsing Dr. Mathieu Eugene. Caller ID shows that the call from the former Brooklyn councilmember and current Brooklyn representative to U.S. Congress originates, naturally enough, in Phoenix, Arizona.
1:29 p.m.: "Hi, I'm calling to remind you to vote for Jesse Hamilton in today's special election. Uh...I'm calling from D.C. 37."
Can you tell me why I should vote for him?
"Well, he's been endorsed by Major Owens and several other organizations."
Right, but can you tell me a reason why you've endorsed him?
"Oh, I don't live in the district. I don't really know much about him."
6:47 p.m.: "Hi, my name is Julia, and I'm calling on behalf of Dr. Mathieu Eugene. We just wanted to remind you that polls are open until 9 p.m. Thank you for your support, and I hope you have a great night!"
And the winner is . . . Dr. Eugene, a Haitian-born physician and community board member who as of last month didn't live in the district either. Eugene won his ticket to City Hall with a whopping 2,008 votes out of around 6,000 cast, in what papers are generously calling "light turnout." (There are approximately 75,000 registered voters in the average council district.) Score one for mindshare.