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Redrawn District Lines Throws a Wrench in 10th Cong. Race

Proposed boundaries exclude the homes of declared challenger Hakeem Jeffries and incumbent Rep. Ed Towns from their majority African-American voting base.

Update, 4:58 p.m.: A spokesman for Rep. Ed Towns responded to our request for comment, saying the Congressman would not discuss redistricting lines until they had been finalized. "Until then he feels we are engaging in speculation," he said.

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A race pitting a young political upstart against one of the longest serving members of Congress may have got a lot more complicated.

The homes of both Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries, D-Fort Greene, and his incumbent opponent Rep. Ed Towns have been removed from a proposed 8th Congressional District, which would largely replace the 10th C.D. covering the mostly African-American neighborhoods of Central and East Brooklyn.

In fact, the neighborhoods of Fort Greene, Clinton Hill and Prospect Heights, which traditionally have shared the same representative to Congress with the rest of Central Brooklyn, will no longer be part of the redrawn 8th C.D., according to a proposal released earlier this week by a federal judge charged with drawing up possible Congressional lines.

Instead, the proposed boundaries have the three neighborhoods included in a new 9th C.D., which includes the heavily white enclaves of Gerritsen Beach, Mill Basin and Gravesend.

Calling the neighborhoods of Fort Greene, Clinton Hill and Prospect Heights "communities of interest" in a letter to U.S. Magistrate Judge Roanne Mann on Tuesday, Jeffries called attention to the fact that, despite its size, only one proposed Congressional district lay entirely within the borough's boundaries.

"Indeed, we can accommodate three entire congressional districts wholly within the borders of the county," Jeffries wrote. "In this context, there is no plausible reason why the new [8th C.D.] reaches into Queens to pick up three additional neighborhoods that have nothing in common demographically with the communities that have traditionally made up the 10th Congressional District."

The proposal also received strong criticism from at least one of Jeffries' colleagues in the Assembly, who protested the inclusion of Queens neighborhoods of Ozone Park and Howard Beach in the proposed 8th C.D.

"These neighborhoods have nothing in common—racially, culturally, geographically, ideologically or socioeconomically—with the African-American neighborhoods of Central and East Brooklyn and it would be a grave mistake to include them," wrote Assemblyman Karim Camara, D-Crown Heights, chair of the Black, Puerto Rican, Hispanic and Asian caucus to Mann.

The proposed redistricting follows drafts released by the state Senate and Assembly—with some decrying what they called secretive attempts to protect incumbents from both political parties.

However, the proposed realignment of Towns' district complicates the electoral picture for both the incumbent, who lives in Cypress Hills, and Prospect Heights challenger Jeffries.

Towns did not return a call for comment on the redistricting proposal.

Camara notes in his letter that "hundreds of thousands of dollars" have already been spent in .

Another Democratic challenger for Towns' seat, Councilman Charles Barron, D-East New York, looks to be the least affected by the proposed court-drawn lines.

Jeffries is no stranger to electoral complications brought about by redistricting. Last year, the Democrat was of "Gerrymandering: The Film," speaking about his own experience of being removed from an Assembly District he was contending in 2002.

If the lines hold, the current redistricting process may be a case of history repeating itself—at least for Jeffries.

Daniel March 07, 2012 at 10:16 PM
So we can trust the courts will make a fair call but that won't bring back all the money they have already spent on the campaign...ouch

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