Commerce and Community
By Errol T. Louis
Knight Takes Pawn?
James Davis, the slain city councilman, is surely spinning in his grave right now. His brother, Geoffrey Davis, has made just about every rookie mistake it’s possible to make in politics.
Geoffrey stumbled out of the starting gate when he fired several key people who were managing his brother’s reelection campaign. Now most of them are working against him. Then he got into some kind of street altercation with a rival campaign, and the incident resulted in a complaint filed with the local precinct.
Worst of all, Mr. Davis didn’t capitalize on the wave of sympathy generated after the assassination by swiftly locking down campaign contributions from the raft of pols who spoke tearfully at his brother’s funeral. Too bad. The money would have come in handy.
Clarence Norman, former Brooklyn Democratic boss, and a great many council members, have nominally endorsed Mr. Davis, but have done little or nothing to actually support his campaign. As a result, it’s entirely possible that the council seat that James Davis spent years diligently working to capture will pass into the hands of the Working Families Party candidate, Letitia James, who represents everything the councilman fought against during his brief turn on the political stage.
Davis battled the Kings County machine and its leader at every turn. What irony that Ms. James is a product of that machine, and was handpicked by Mr. Norman to run for the council in 2001. Indeed, Mr. Norman’s support that year was widely viewed as repayment for the many years Ms. James spent dutifully knocking insurgents and other would-be candidates off the ballot, at the behest of the county organization.
The Working Families Party – which mostly backs Democratic incumbents and only occasionally takes real risks for political reform- is attempting to repackage and sell Ms. James to the neighborhood as an independent voice for progressive politics.
That may work with some voters, but for real reformers – people who have expended time, treasure, effort and reputation in the long battle to open up the party and dislodge its do-nothing incumbents – a victory by Ms. James would represent little more than the arrival of yet another political functionary eager to carry out someone else’s orders.
Ms. James – Tish, as she is known in the neighborhood – always gets angry when I refer to her as a political hack. I only wish I had a better term.
In my political dictionary, a hack is a pawn of the machine, a rubber stamp, a person who always does as she’s told and never, ever, refuses to carry out instructions sent by her political higher-ups (or “hire-ups”, as the case may be).
When I think about the various young, progressive candidates who have tried to contribute to this community by running for office – Pete Williams, Hakeem Jeffries, Barry Ford and James Davis himself – Tish was always on the other side, working against them in some fashion.
Behaving, in other words, just like a hack. Should Ms. James prevail on Election Day, I challenge her to get the last laugh by proving me wrong.
Anthony Herbert, the Republican candidate, is busily calling in favors and contributions from Republicans all over the city, and from friends and neighbors in the Prospect Heights area where he grew up. A portion of the Lubavitcher vote in the district is likely to support Abraham Wasserman, the Conservative Party candidate from Crown Heights who got 1800 votes in 2001. And don’t count Geoffrey Davis out.
Like his brother, Geoffrey is a quick study when it comes to politics.
When I ran into Geoffrey at a rally recently, he seemed happy and at ease. “You play chess, right?” He said. “Keep watching. I’m moving my knights into position.” Then he held up his hands, like a boxer, and started humming the theme from Rocky.