Monday, November 02, 2009

AY opponents James, Owens endorse AY supporter Vann in the 36th CD, neglect AY opponent Griffith

In the race between incumbent 36th District Council Member Al Vann, who won an eight-person Democratic primary by a slim margin, and challenger Mark Winston Griffith, who came in second and is running on the Working Families Party line, you'd think 35th District Council Member Letitia James might endorse the challenger.

After all, Vann voted to overturn and extend term limits, while James was a fierce opponent of that effort. And Vann is a supporter of Atlantic Yards, attending the MetroTech tree-lighting last December, while James is the project's leading political opponent--and Griffith opposes the project.

You'd also think that Chris Owens, who ran for the 11th Congressional District in 2006 as the only candidate opposing Atlantic Yards, also might endorse Griffith.

But James and Owens are endorsing Vann, as the New York Times reports today. Along with their citation of his very long track record as a patriarch of black politics in Brooklyn, I'd have to suspect that mutual crusades and mutual favors go a long way. (James used to work for Vann. And Atlantic Yards is hardly the major issue in the district.)

What they're missing

Vann's endorsers have to ignore a few things. Vann was unwilling to debate his challengers in the primary election and, as Daily News columnist Errol Louis (once partners on a credit union with Griffith), wrote in September:
As Primary Day approaches, it's time to declare openly what many political, religious and civic leaders are saying quietly: City Councilman Al Vann, who has spent a total of 34 years in the state Assembly and the City Council, has long since lost his fire, energy and effectiveness.
Here's a response from Vann supporters and an endorsement of the incumbent from Our Time Press. The Citizens Union also endorsed Vann, with no explanation, despite his vote to overturn term limits.

The context

The Times’s coverage left out some important context that backs criticism of the incumbent: while Griffith lost the primary by about 8 percentage points, there were eight candidates, and some 70% opposed Vann.

In the Times’s coverage today, Vann–not anyone neutral–gets the last word, stating, “I’ve been doing a good job.” Doesn’t the 70% vote against him cast that in doubt?

More on the race from Brooklyn the Borough and (with video) Brooklyn Ron.

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