“My beloved Brooklyn has the distinction of having more deaths due to COVID-19 than any county in the United States," Democratic Brooklyn Rep. Yvette Clarke said May 15 on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives.

Clarke says it’s her seven terms of experience that will help the hard-hit Ninth Congressional District navigate the coronavirus crisis.

“Now is not the time for on-the-job training," she said.

Her Democratic challengers say it’s been her inaction that helped fuel the disparities now being exacerbated.

“It has been a failure of leadership," Adem Bunkeddeko said. "I think if you think about all the issues have been existing in our community — whether it’s on housing, whether it’s on immigration, whether it’s on education, criminal justice — these are now — add on COVID and it’s been gasoline added to a five-alarm fire.”

What You Need To Know

  • Yvette Clarke won reelection against Adem Bunkeddeko by less than 2,000 votes in 2018.

  • But Bunkeddeko to split anti-incumbent vote with three additional challengers this year.

  • Conservative Democrat Chaim Deutsch may be wild-card candidate in NY-16 race.

Bunkeddeko lost to Clarke by fewer than 2,000 votes in 2018. He’s a solid fundraiser with endorsements from key progressives like Zephyr Teachout.

But complicating his chances this cycle are three additional Democratic candidates to split the anti-incumbent vote.

Chaim Deutsch is a socially conservative City Council member with the endorsement of Police Benevolent Association. He could turn out ultra-Orthodox Jewish voters.

Lutchi Gayot ran as a Republican in 2018 and backs a universal basic income (UBI).

And to the left of Bunkeddeko is Army veteran and Democratic socialist, Isiah James, who says he knows firsthand what it’s like to be among the working poor.

“These lived experiences matter, not platitudes, not industry-speak or Congress-, Wall Street-speak or Capitol Hill-speak," James said. "This is me speaking to the people as a real person, as somebody who knows what you’re going through. Because I’ve been through it and I’m still going through it today.”

The need for lower-cost housing in a district dominated by renters and transformed by gentrification has only intensified with the COVID-19 crisis.

Bunkeddeko, a former nonprofit employee, has made his “America’s Homes Guarantee” the centerpiece of his platform.

Clarke has cited a bill she introduced this session to change how area median income is calculated so rents can be lowered on affordable housing.

The Ninth District includes Brownsville, Park Slope, and Sheepshead Bay.

The primary is June 23, and voters are encouraged to use absentee ballots, which could delay the reporting of the results.


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