The Community Candidate Concept: What Makes a Good Candidate?

What makes a good candiate? Groups like Emily's List and Working Families Party have a tendency to look to the candidates who have money, whose skills are in fundraising. Some people seem to think only lawyers can be effective politicians. And some simply think all candidates are pretty much the same and despair of finding excitement in supporting a candidate.

I don't buy any of those. I do get excited about candidates. They do not tend to be the ones who are supported by big money interests, and they are not always lawyers, but they are the candidates who are smart, articulate, and good on the issues. But there is one thing more that really makes a candidate kick ass. Dedication to the community. In some ways this may be the thing that can break through racial, cultural and political divides, because a candidate who proves him or herself to the community can get broad support: black and white, rich and poor, liberal and moderate. I want to discuss just such candidates.

Crossposted on Daily Kos. Please go and recommend.

Awhile back at a Democracy for NYC meeting I met an unlikely DFA-type activist. A member of UAW from the Kensington part of Brooklyn, and clearly NOT the typical progressive, he had a rather disdainful attitude as the rest of us were talking strategies for winning elections and for reforming the corrupt Brooklyn Democratic machine. He was big and gruff and clearly blue collar. In his mind, reform Democrat, machine Democrat or, for that matter, Republican didn't matter. None of them are of any relevance to communities that are being threatened by inept and/or corrupt. When others pointed out that electing candidates that are sensitive to these issues is the way to change the situation, he dismissed that as being what he was looking for.

What he, and probably a large number of Americans, wanted to see is up-front community activism where politicians prove themselves to the community BEFORE they expect anyone to vote for them. His idea struck me as being kind of important for winning elections. I have often been locked in the politician mindset: people have to vote and be involved before politicians will notice them. The UAW guy from Kensington showed me that the reverse is at least as important: politicians who prove their dedication to the community DESERVE community support.

The problem is that community activists are seldom the candidates who get the big bucks from big business to win elections. Instead they are usually grassroots candidates who need our help to win. I want to introduce you to three candidates that need your help. These people are superb candidates. Intelligent, dedicated and, in the spirit of UAW Kensington guy, have already proven their dedication to the community far more than most politicians ever will. And, now I think about it, each of them has a distinctive personality. They don't blend in with the crowd but are bold in their statements and ideas. Community dedication, bold ideas and clear positions. THAT is what I am looking for.

Please help me elect these Community Candidates:

Eric Adams: I met Eric Adams, a candidate for NY State Senate, at a meeting of the Central Brooklyn Independent Democrats (CBID). My wife had previously had some interaction with him and had considered him largely a grandstander...but we both were extremely impressed with him at the CBID meeting. Eric Adams has served his community as a police officer AND an advocate for civil liberties (a rare an refreshing combination) as well as a liaison between the NYPD and the black community. Eric Adams is best known as being the NYPD Captain who is willing to criticize his police superiors on minority relations, civil rights and on their handling of terrorist warnings. Eric Adams is the head of 100 Blacks in Law Enforcement Who Care and an ally of the former head of the New York Civil Liberties Union, Norman Siegel. So, in my mind, Eric Adams combines some very fine qualities--service in law enforcement, spokesperson for minority rights, and advocate of civil liberties. He also, along with Bill Batson, who I mention below, is concerned about the unusual number of suspicious fires hitting poor and minority areas of Brooklyn near areas coveted by developers. His style is very much that of a police captain: rather gruff and no-nonsense. Eric Adams has real dedication to the community, to law enforcement and to the rights of all Americans. He genuinely seems to be running so he can bring that dedication to the state senate.

Bill Batson: Even more than Eric Adams, Bill Batson is a candidate whose dedication to the community is what has driven him to politics. In fact, he came to politics quite reluctantly. Only after turning down calls to run twice did he finally agree when yet a third group called on him to run. He was CHOSEN by the community to run. Again, like Eric Adams, Bill Batson has expressed considerable concern over the suspicious fires hitting poor and minority areas of Brooklyn and has been even more vocal about his belief that these fires are suspiciously benefiting developers. Rather than merely complain, Bill Batson has actually organized arson patrols, modeled after Community Watch programs, to protect neighborhoods from arson fires. He has served on a local community board, focusing on both fire issues (such as the mayor's closing of critical fire houses) and on preserving neighborhoods from excessive development. He has been endorsed by the Sierra Club in recognition of his work to preserve a healthy and safe urban environment for Brooklyn residents. He has also spearheaded a movement to save cultural heritage sites in Brooklyn such as homes that had been stopping points on the Underground Railroad. Bill Batson is not only an ally of Norm Siegel, like Eric Adams, but actually worked with Norm Siegel at the NYCLU protecting the civil rights of New Yorkers. Recently, Bill Batson was endorsed by the Civil Service Employees Association, CSEA Local 1000, AFSCME in recognition for his work negotiating union representation for workers at Lifespire, Inc., who chose to be represented by CSEA. Bill Batson has served his community, furthering union representation, fire safety and preservation of cultural heritage sites.

Chris Owens: Chris Owens is a friend as well as a candidate I am proud to support. Unlike Eric Adams and Bill Batson, Chris Owens comes from a political family. His father is my Congressman. Chris is running to replace his father in Congress, something that I did not like at first but was quick to forgive when I realized what a kick ass candidate Chris is. Chris has also proven himself as a community-oriented candidate, like Bill Batson and Eric Adams. Chris Owens had a distinguished tenure on a local school board, a tenure that a friend of mine who has been a NYC community activist since the Civil Rights days of the `60's praises quite strongly. Chris is the only African-American man to have served on the Political Action Committee of NARAL-NY and is a dedicated advocate of a woman's right to choose. In recognition of this he has been endorsed by Planned Parenthood's Action Fund. As with Eric Adams and Bill Batson, Chris is an ally of Civil Rights advocate Norm Siegel and has been extremely concerned with the closing of firehouses in poorer areas of Brooklyn. Chris was arrested while protesting one such closing, indicating that he is willing to put himself on the line for his community. Like Bill Batson, Chris has been working to preserve the cultural heritage of Brooklyn, serving as President of the Weeksville Society, working to preserve historical sites in the Weeksville and Bed-Stuy communities in Brooklyn. Chris has also been a dedicated Democrat, founding the Paul Robeson Independent Democrats (PRIDE), serving as chair of the Kings County Democratic Coalition (KCDC), and serving as Co-Chair of the New York State Democratic Coalition (NDC).

These three candidates have shown their dedication to their community. But they are facing tough opponents (particularly Bill Batson and Chris Owens) who are outspending them in an attempt to buy the election. I am asking you to help the real community candidates beat the local Democratic machine and big business money. Even a small donation will help give the community its voice in Albany and Washington.

Tags: 100 Blacks in Law Enforcement Who Care, Bill Batson, Brooklyn, Candidates, Chris Owens, civil liberties, community, Congress, Eric Adams, Howard Dean, NARAL, Norm Siegel, NYPD, progressive democrat, Underground Railroad, Weeksville Society (all tags)


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