Plethora of Candidates for Evette Clarke’s Seat

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By Danielle Douglas

With Congresswoman Yvette Clarke settling into her new seat in the House of Representatives her former City Council post awaits occupation. Before Clarke could unpack her bags in DC, the rumor mill began churning out a list of potential candidates to replace her in the 40th Council District. By some estimates, there were over 30 people vying for the seat, but that number has been whittled down to 12 contenders who wrangled over 2,000 signatures to get on the ballot for the special election – to be held on February 20th.
The 40th District, anchored by Crown Heights and Flatbush, is home to one of the largest concentrations of West Indians in the city, hence the reason why so many of those expressing their interest in the seat hail from Grenada, St. Vincent, Haiti and Jamaica. Considering that the first West Indian elected to City Council – Mrs. Una Clarke – came from the 40th, many political insiders expect residents to push for a Caribbean candidate.
Still, the district is comprised of folks from varying ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds, meaning that a successful candidate will have to be inclusive of their needs. At a recent debate held at Vox Pop in Flatbush, several contenders presented their case to an audience of 50 or so people.

Seven of the Dozen Candidates in the Running: Jesse Hamilton, Harry Schiffman, Joel Toney, Gerry Hopkins, Leithland “Rickie” Tulloch, Mohammed “Moe” Razvi and (inset: Karlene Gordon)

 
While many of the candidates exposed themselves as political novices with their inability to give thoughtful and viable answers to questions of education and housing, others demonstrated a holistic understanding of the dynamics of city government, grassroots initiatives and community activism.
Of the eight candidates who participated, standouts included Jesse Hamilton, Leithland Tulloch, Gerry Hopkins and Harry Schiffman. Each had thorough knowledge of the needs of the community, thoughtful legislation and a clear understanding of the capabilities and limitations of the City Council. The following is a brief summation on all of the candidates (who were all contacted for this piece), their backgrounds, their strengths and their weaknesses:
Jesse Hamilton
Occupation: AttorneyPolitical Office(s) Held: Democratic District Leader, 43rd Assembly District Community Leadership: President of Community Board 8 (1996-2003)
Key Platform Positions: Universal Pre-school, more funding for small business owners, more arts programs in the schools, extended school hours for aftercare Key Supporters: DC#37 (he’s a member) For more Info: http://www.votejessehamilton.com
Wellington Sharpe
Occupation: President and CEO of Nelrak Inc. (day care, preschool and after-school) Political Office(s) Held: N/A (Ran  against Yvette Clarke in 2002) Community Leadership: Member of Community Board 17.
Key Platform Positions: Developing a community center and trade school in the district. Key Supporters: N/A For more info: http:/www.wellingtonsharpe.com
Zenobia McNally
Occupation: Marketing Executive Political Office(s) Held: N/A (Ran against Clarke in 2005) Community Leadership: Founder of Concerned Citizens of Flatbush Block Association. 
Key Platform Positions: Create legislation so that all taxpayer-subsidized developments include job placements, present legislation to deal with predatory lenders Key Supporters: N/A For more Info: (718) 282-8818
Mathieu Eugene
Occupation: Doctor; Founder of Youth for Education and Sports, Inc. Political Office(s) Held: N/A Community Leadership: Member of Community Board 14, Co-founder of the Committee for the Development of Northern Haiti Key Platform Positions: N/A (never returned calls or E-mails) Key Supporters: Congresswoman Yvette Clarke For more info: (718) 940-2006
Joel Toney
Occupation: Former Ambassador to the UN Political Office(s) Held: N/A Community Leadership: Member of Community Board 14.
Key Platform Positions: Convert abandoned city property into affordable housing, increase vocational training Key Supporters: N/A For more info: http://www.friendsofjoeltoney.com/
Harry Schiffman
Occupation: Director of Government and Community Relations for Kingsbrook  Jewish Medical Center Political Office(s) Held: N/A Community Leadership: Member of Church Avenue Merchants Assoc. (etc.)
Key Platform Positions: Preservation of Victorian homes, conversion of top floor of small community libraries into affordable housing Key Supporters: N/A For more info: http://schiffmanforcouncil.com/
Jennifer James
Occupation: Former campaign manager for Yvette Clarke Political Office(s) Held: N/A Community Leadership: Founder of Council of Urban Professionals.
Key Platform Positions: Protect the rights of immigrant workers, enhance law  enforcement training Key Supporters: N/A For more info: http://friendsofjennifer.com/
Mohammad Razvi
Occupation: Co-founder and executive director of Council of Peoples  Organization Political Office(s) Held: N/A Community Leadership: Co-founder of We Are All Brooklyn.
Key Platform Positions: Create living wage jobs, more after school programs,
more affordable housing Key Supporters: N/A For more info: (347) 627-5607
Gerry Hopkins
Occupation: Journalist Political Office(s) Held: N/A Community Leadership: Founding member of Concerned Americans for Racial  Equality.
Key Platform Positions: Overhauling the Civilian Complaint Review Board,  extended after-school programs, more affordable housing Key Supporters: N/A For more Info: http://votegerryhopkins.com/
Leithland Tulloch
Occupation: Senior Associate Director Network Internal Affairs Political Office(s) Held: N/A Community Leadership: Member of Community Board 17.
Key Platform Positions: Advocate for contextual zoning to prevent developers from uprooting residence and demolishing Victorian homes; preserving rent stabilization for moderate and low-income residents; creation of quarterly police/community forums to address community relations Key Supporters: Assemblywoman Rhonda Jacobs For more Info: (718) 462-2519
Karlene Gordon
Occupation: N/A Political Office(s) Held: N/A Community Leadership: N/A
Key Platform Positions: Implementation of more vocational schools in the district; create a socialization curriculum emphasizing self-esteem, respect and conflict resolution; food stamps.
Key Supporters: N/A For more Info: (347) 529 2263
Mozell Ductan Albright
Occupation: N/A Political Office(s) Held: N/A Community Leadership: N/A
Key Platform Positions: N/A (never returned phone call) Key Supporters: N/A For more Info:

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