Can The Clarkes (Una and Yvette) Successfully Handpick Their Successor To The 40th Council District Seat Out Of Brooklyn?

Brooklyn’s 40th City Council district came into existence in 1991, when via charter revision the city council expanded from thirty-six to fifty-one districts. It also came about because many Caribbean-American political activists, demanded lines be drawn that were favorable to electing one of their ilk. The 40th and 45th districts were drawn with that objective in mind somewhat, cutting through the heartlands of areas where Caribbean-Americans live in majority. That same year, a pugnacious Jamaican-born woman, stubbornly insisting that she was a “maroon”, emerged victorious. And the ‘icon” that many now refer to by one name, was born. She was Una Clarke. Una held the seat for ten years, before she was eventually term-limited out of office.

When the race to succeed Una started up, many people were angered at the fact that she had hand-picked her daughter for succession. This was no surprise to most political pundits, who had seen this type of family hand-down occur with tremendous successes, all over the USA. And it was no surprise either, when Yvette Clarke handily won the seat in 2001.You could have bet the rent on that outcome folks. Even the late Ray Charles saw it coming.

In that race Yvette faced many opponents, and by the time the voting machines were opened up on election day, the field was down to six- since one opponent had died and a couple were knocked off the ballot in the pre-election court challenges. During the pre-election debates, one of Yvette’s opponents (Wellington Sharpe) made the loud proclamation, “I am the only Jamaican–born candidate running in this race”; this didn’t sit well with the Clarkes (as far as I am told). It is said that Yvette and her mother felt that Sharpe was trying to get an edge over Yvette, with the many Jamaican- born voters in the district; thus he pissed them off. It is also said that they felt Sharpe was trying to minimize and trivialize Yvette’s Caribbean-American pedigree, in a district full of Caribs. The Clarkes have never been supportive of any of Sharpe’s runs for public office, despite sharing a common heritage. This has been commented on by many an observer. So the question is: why? Why haven’t the Clarkes endorsed Sharpe before?

To Wellington Sharpe, the aforementioned incident was just one of those things that happen in the heat of a candidate’s debate; he believes that the incident was overblown. Sharpe insists that it wasn’t anything personal (against Yvette), and that he was only being factual. He doesn’t think that this five year old event should stand between him and an endorsement from the Clarkes, as he tries to replace her in the City Council, in the upcoming special election. But will it? Should it?

When Yvette Clarke won the Democratic Primary in September last-11th Congressional District- speculation as to her successor in the council was rife; even her mother’s name was mentioned. After her victory in the general election last month, names were coming out of the woodwork, as to who that successor would be. Potential candidates were making the trek to their political club on Flatbush Avenue as though it was the annual pilgrimage to Mecca. Everyone wanted to touch the hems of their respective garments. Some potential candidates were kissing their papal-rings; others were kissing their quasi-royal asses (with no shame). After all, someone said that whoever the Clarkes endorsed will have the inside track to winning the seat. We shall see; February will be here soon enough. That’s when the special election to find her replacement will take place; in the dead of winter.

A little over a month ago, word went out that the Clarkes were interviewing candidates to find someone they could endorse as a replacement; and that there was going to be a process by which this will be achieved. Word is now that they have interviewed more potential candidates, than Spitzer’s transition team has interviewed blacks for high positions in his incoming administration. And just like the governor-elect’s team, the Clarkes are still interviewing it seems. They just can’t seem to agree on one person. Word is that Zenobia McNally would never get the nod; neither would Frances Purcell, if she were to run (as far as I know, Purcell isn’t running), neither Jerry Hopkins. I guess you could probably include me on that short list, if I were to be so crazy as to drop my hat in the ring; after all, I didn’t endorse Yvette for Congress; and without apologies to booth.

Word on the street is that Yvette and Una are going to split their (mutual) endorsement, with Una going with Joel Toney (St.Vincent born); and Yvette going with her fundraiser Jennifer James (Afro-American). It is being said that this will be done for purely tactical reasons; but as you know in this game: rumors abound.

This brings me to Wellington Sharpe (again). Last Saturday- and also last Sunday- in two informal public gatherings, Sharpe sent out an early Christmas greeting to all potential candidates in this upcoming race: he declared his intention to run. He said that he had been persuaded to hasten (and advance) his decision, since time is of the utmost importance in this sprint to the wire. He has since hired “heavy-hitter” Omar Boucher, to serve as campaign manager. He also bought on Madari Pam Miller and Francisco Hall as coordinators. He is also said to be reaching out to James Archibald to function as a technician on his campaign. I know all this because I have also been called, and in all honesty I am leaning Sharpe’s way. Believe me when I say that many of the potential candidates have called me over the past two months. They all want help.

The spin coming out of Sharpe’s campaign is that he has the best numbers of any of the potential candidates who have run within EDs here. His manager stated today that when Sharpe ran in a six way race against Yvette Clarke and others in 2001, his total votes are ahead of Zenobia McNally’s- who ran one on one against Yvette Clarke last year. Boucher also stated that Sharpe leads all potential candidates on “name-recognition” alone, and that he will be the one candidate who won’t be strapped for funds to run an effective race.

Boucher said in a phone call today, that he is lining up support for Sharpe from major unions and also from various elected officials as Kendall Stewart, John Sampson, Eric Adams and Lori Knippel. He also stated that prominent community leaders like Bishop Cecil Riley, Attorney Edward Roberts, Leolin Schliffer, James Connolly and Asquith Reid, are all poised to endorse him immediately. When asked if the Clarkes will endorse Sharpe, the manager (Boucher) said that only time will tell. What do you think?

Stay tuned-in folks.