- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 27, 2006

NEW YORK (AP) — Introduced to members of the Mount Pisgah Baptist Church as “a down-home, good-to-know kind of brother,” David Yassky could not match the reverend’s rhetorical fire or midsermon dance.

But “Brother Yassky” is causing a stir just by showing up, both in the Brooklyn church and in the majority-black district that in 1968 made Shirley Chisholm the first black woman elected to Congress.

The City Council member’s decision to move a few blocks into the district and run in the Democratic primary — against three black candidates — means that after decades of sending a black representative to Congress, the district may elect a white, Jewish newcomer.

Mr. Yassky’s presence in the race has provoked an outcry among some black residents and leaders. To them, it is a fight about the soul of a district that has seen an influx of white residents who have been priced out of costlier Manhattan.

Desiree Griffith, 34, a city worker who sat in a Mount Pisgah pew on Sunday, said she would consider voting for Mr. Yassky but was not impressed after hearing him speak.

“I won’t necessarily vote for the black person or the white person, but the person who is the best person,” Miss Griffith said. “I really didn’t get much from him, because he didn’t say much about what he was going to do or stand for,” she said.

Some are outright scornful of Mr. Yassky’s candidacy.

“They called him brother? That’s just embarrassing,” said Charles Barron, a black New York City Council member who is running for Congress in a neighboring Brooklyn district.

“People keep saying David has the right to run. Well, we should be talking about group rights, not individual rights. Black people who have been oppressed and repressed, we can take care of ourselves. We don’t need him to take care of us,” Mr. Barron said.

Mr. Yassky holds a significant fundraising advantage over his three primary opponents, who well may split the black vote and thus bolster the council member’s candidacy. Mr. Yassky has raised $1.2 million, which is more than the other three combined.

One of the Democrats is Chris Owens, son of Major R. Owens, the 12-term black congressman who is vacating the seat.

In 2004, candidate Yvette Diane Clarke came in second to Major Owens in the Democratic primary; she is running again. The third candidate, Carl Andrews, is a veteran state senator with ties to the county’s Democratic organization.

In heavily Democratic Brooklyn, a victory in the primary virtually ensures a win in November.

The district is a collection of working-class neighborhoods and had the largest concentration of Jews in America in the mid-20th century. During the 1960s, a time of white flight to the suburbs, many left and were replaced by blacks and new waves of immigrants.

The district lines changed after the 2000 census, and the district that was once 75 percent black became 58.5 percent black, 21 percent white, 12 percent Hispanic and 4 percent Asian.

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