Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries received the backing of the Mayor Bloomberg-linked lobbying group StudentsFirstNY in his upcoming Congressional primary against City Councilman Charles Barron, but promptly rejected the pro-charter-school association’s support, saying its “unregulated money” had no place in the race.
Mr. Jeffries was the first candidate for office to receive backing from StudentsFirstNY, an offshoot of former Washington, D.C. Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee’s national organization that promotes the expansion of charter schools, merit-pay systems for Teachers and the end of seniority-based layoffs.
A Gaggle of UFT Critics
Former City Councilwoman Eva Moskowitz, a noted foe of the United Federation of Teachers who now heads the Success charter network, and former Schools Chancellor Joel I. Klein are among StudentsFirstNY’s board members. It is headed by Mr. Bloomberg’s former Albany lobbyist, Micah Lasher.
The group announced June 4 that it would launch a six-figure “independent expenditure campaign” to support Mr. Jeffries, who is more sympathetic to the expansion of charter schools than Mr. Barron. Brooklyn’s 6th Congressional District includes the neighborhoods of Bedford-Stuyvesant, East New York and Brownsville, areas where charter schools are most concentrated in the borough.
A proposed mailing praised Mr. Jeffries for working to create more school options in Brooklyn. The Assemblyman penned an op-ed in 2011 explaining his opposition to a lawsuit brought by the United Federation of Teachers and NAACP against charter co-locations with district schools, and has offered praise for charters at parent meetings.
Nonetheless, he rebuked StudentsFirstNY for intervening in the race, saying in a statement to the Daily News, “We did not seek it, do not want it and will win without it.”
‘No Place in This Race’
Spokeswoman Lupe Todd said, “We have worked for more than a year to raise the resources necessary to mount a successful campaign from people who want a fresh start in the nation’s capital. In this regard, the Jeffries campaign has raised more than $650,000 from more than 2,400 supporters. More than 60 percent of our contributions have come in increments of $100 or less. These efforts demonstrate the broad and widespread appeal of our campaign.”
“The Jeffries campaign does not believe that independent expenditures have a place in this race,” she continued.
The UFT has not issued an endorsement in the race, although Mr. Jeffries does enjoy the support of some other unions like the Communications Workers of America and Service Employees International Union Local 1199 along with the Working Families Party.
Mr. Barron is backed by District Council 37 and received the endorsement of retiring incumbent Congressman Ed Towns June 4. He previously tried to unseat Mr. Towns, coming within 10 points in a heated 2006 primary, but Mr. Towns called him an “independent” who would “tell it like it is” in Congress.
UFT President Michael Mulgrew did not respond to calls for comment on the union’s neutrality in the race or StudentsFirstNY’s involvement.