Farewell to my Congressman: a send off for Major Owens
Last night was the farewell party for Major Owens, retiring Congressman from NY-11. Joy and I attended because we both have always felt well represented by Major (more on that below) and we like his son, Chris.
During the election to replace Major, I heard a great deal of negative about Major and his family. Gatemouth, for example, seems to have considerable disdain for the Owens family. I am not going to argue about Gatemouth's accusations about the Owens family. Rather I want to say why Joy and I like them.
I don't know Major well nor do I feel any great loyalty to him per se. It is his son I know personally and like. But, ever since I moved to Brooklyn and even before I became involved in the local political scene, I felt very happy to be represented by Major Owens. When I looked at his voting record, it was about the best of anyone in Congress. I heard many white residents of Park Slope who felt he didn't represent him well. But when I pointed out that he was one of the only members of Congress to vote against the war in Iraq at every opportunity and to vote against the unPatriot Act at every opportunity, most of them looked surprised and suddenly liked him a lot more. Looking at almost every issue, his vote represented me perfectly well. THAT is why I like him. Simply put, when many Democrats were caving in to Bush and the Republicans, Major Owens stood for what I believed in. That is why I went to his farewell dinner and why I am sad to see him leave Congress.
A few notes about last night:
Whatever my mostly white and wealthy Park Slope neighbors think about Major, there are many members of his community who are very devoted to him and feel very well represented. I also will note that sometimes the Owens family is represented as if Chris and Major were identical, something I have always indicated wasn't true. Last night highlighted that in one way: although everyone has been telling me that the "Owens camp" (meaning Chris' supporters, I think) support Zenobia McNally to replace Yvette Clarke, it sure seemed last night like Major was endorsing Jesse Hamilton. Since I have so far liked both Zenobia and Jesse, I am fine either way.
Yvette Clarke made a cameo appearance last night, which I thought quite gracious. Major, later in the evening made a less than gracious speech about the fact that Chris wasn't succeeding him, which I thought could have been done a little better, particularly given the fact that Yvette had stopped by. Jim Brennan and Major Owens spent a good deal of time praising eachother, and Major made it quite clear that he would support Jim for Comptroller.
I also want to note that both Chris Owens and Ulysses Slaughter have WONDERFUL voices. Chris only briefly sang, while Ulysses was highlighted several times. Ulysses sang "Impossible Dream" from Man of La Mancha, which is always a song I'm a sucker for (sadly, I missed seeing Anthony Quinn as Don Quixote, something I really regret!), but I did feel that the song less appropriate now that the Republicans have been routed in Congress and the "dream" seems less impossible than it did before Nov. 11th.
Finally, Major made clear that he is not really retiring. He has no intention of "fading away" so much as "transitioning" into a new role. I look forward to seeing what role Major will take in the community...maybe he wants to spend some of his time blogging for Daily Gotham? Just a suggestion!
So let me end with my own farewell to Congressman Owens, who I feel DID represent me well in Congress, and let me welcome Congresswoman Clarke who I am hoping will be a good replacement.