A group of black and Hispanic elected officials from Brooklyn are scheduled to meet this morning to devise strategies to keep a white candidate from winning a Congressional seat of historical significance in black politics.
It is not the first such meeting of these officials, nor is it likely to be the last. That there are talks so steeped in ethnicity indicates that race is not just one of the issues in determining who will succeed Representative Major R. Owens. It seems to be the dominant one.
Mr. Owens, a veteran of more than two decades in Congress who turns 70 this month, is not running for re-election. The black and Hispanic officials gathering today are discussing how to prevent David Yassky, a white city councilman from Brooklyn Heights, from winning a seat that once belonged to Shirley Chisholm, the first black woman elected to Congress.
Mr. Yassky, a former law professor, has collected as much in campaign contributions as his rivals combined, more than $800,000 at the time of the last campaign finance filing.
And his three black opponents in the Democratic primary — as well as many black and Hispanic officials throughout the borough — have become increasingly agitated by the possibility that blacks would split their vote, allowing him to win................................
"We want to see if there is a way that we might unite behind one black candidate in the race, as opposed to several black candidates running along with Yassky," said Assemblywoman Annette Robinson, an organizer of the meeting. "We're going to try to work this out, reminding the candidates that people have fought for this district to be a Voting Rights district."
There have been many discussions by elected officials over the last year, since Mr. Yassky emerged as a candidate, about how the field of black candidates might be narrowed. And Mr. Perry's withdrawal has fueled speculation about whether any of the others might follow.
But for now, the chances seem remote. The other candidates are State Senator Carl Andrews, City Councilwoman Yvette D. Clarke and Chris Owens, the congressman's son and a former member of a community school board....................................
All three of the candidates, as well as many other black and Hispanic officials in the borough, charge that Mr. Yassky is fueled by ambition and opportunism, and that he is seeking to take advantage of the possibility that black candidates will split the vote in the heavily Democratic district.
The 11th District has Crown Heights and Flatbush as its electoral core, but it also stretches into Park Slope and parts of Brooklyn Heights.
In an interview, Mr. Yassky said that he viewed the discussions about race to be of little importance to the average voter in the district. "I don't think that's what voters are focused on," he said. "I think voters are focused on how do we get better housing, better schools, clean air. That's what I talk about with voters. I think that's what will decide the race."......................................
"One of the things we want to do is to send a message to the public that we want to be supportive of a Voting Rights Congressional district," Councilman Vann said. "And we're asking everyone who believes in power sharing to be supportive of what we're doing. The black community should come together and determine a solution we all can live with."