CD-11 is about race after all
This is not about who has a right to run. Let me remind people that I started as a Yassky supporter who was greatly impressed with Chris when I first met him. After that my wife and I felt that we would have a very hard time choosing between Yassky and Chris. In the end Yassky lost us and Chris has become our clear choice. For my wife it was a variety of things that Yassky himself said at various meetups that soured her on Yassky. For me I tended to put a better spin on what he said than my wife did, I objected to some things he did: endorse Sampson, propose a bailout for Ratner on his promise to fund a jobs program, and his initial refusal to take a stand on voting machines, something Yvette Clarke did early.
Race did not matter to me. At all.
But I find race matters a great deal to most people in the district and it will affect the outcome of the race.
First of all, let us never forget who first brought up the race issue: David Yassky. I remember the earliest speeches he gave in this race always started with "I'm the white guy in this race." Yassky brought up the race issue from the very beginning, yet it was the response from black candidates that got everyone angry, not his initial baiting.
Let us also remember that BOTH the Clarke and Owens campaigns took the bait. In fact, almost every time the Clarke campaign talked to me as a Daily Gotham writer, it was the race issue they wanted me to focus on. They asked me point blank to be harsher on Yassky for it. The Owens campaign never did that.
So Yassky set the bait. Clarke and Owens took the bait.
I never thought they should have taken the bait but it is easy to see why they did. Because to the voters in the district, race matters.
Yvette Clarke draws her support almost exclusively from the Caribbean community and is barely noticed outside that core group. Some union support may help her reach out to other groups, but the bottom line is, her support is primarily along racial lines.
Carl Andrews draws his support almost exclusively from the Southern black community and is not well liked outside that core group. Again, some union support will help him reach out to other groups, but the bottom line is, his support is primarily along racial lines.
And now we come to the case of people who live in glass houses should not throw stones. David Yassky, the candidate who first brought up the race issue, gets his support almost exclusively from the white and Orthodox Jewish communities and no amount of glossy mailings with shiny happy black faces on it has gotten him much support outside the white community. Race matters to Yassky supporters too. I suggest Yassky supporters drop the "I am the white candidate and that's okay" line because it has grown old and it is hypocritical. Yassky's core support is primarily along racial lines.
In all the petitioning and canvassing I have done, almost every white person I have talked to (outside of the organizations I work with like CBID, DFNYC and NDM) leans Yassky, even if they have no idea where any of the candidates stand. And they all dislike Major Owens, though again they seem surprised when I point out that he consistently opposed the Iraq war and Patriot Act, stands they invariably like. Almost every black person I talk to supports one of the black candidates. Not a one likes Yassky. Most of them like Major Owens, often quite a bit.
The district is racially divided. Let's admit it. In fact the only candidate whose support comes about equally (very roughly) from all racial groups is Chris Owens. To his advantage and disadvantage, he has no racially based core support but rather has support across racial lines and based more on his stand on issues. So those Yassky people who want to talk about race are in many ways endorsing Chris Owens.
I do not hold their racially based core support against Yassky, Clarke and Andrews. They are not responsible for the racial comfort of the voters. But I do blame Yassky and his supporters for portraying themselves as somehow "above" the race issue when he himself first brought it up and his core of support is as racially motivated as Yvette's or Carl's. In fact possibly MORE solidly racially motivated because Clarke and Andrews gets some cross-racial support due to union endorsements.
Chris Owens is the only candidate who talks across racial lines. Now that alone is not a reason to vote for him. But if people are going to keep bringing up race (and I still am getting it both on the blogs and on the streets), they have to face the fact that Chris is the candidate whose main support is not racially based.