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Coalitions And The Clubhouse

The Jewish Week

Carl Andrews has a wide range of supporters, but ties to scandal-plagued Brooklyn Democratic machine have dogged his bid for historic Brooklyn House seat.

Stepping out the door of his Nostrand Avenue campaign office on Tuesday, state Sen. Carl Andrews took a minute to express pride in the diverse coalition backing his congressional bid.

“Who else can bring together Eliot Spitzer on the left and Dov Hikind on the right, and Tom Duane on the left and Rhoda Jacobs on the right, and David Dinkins on the left and Carl Kruger on the right?” asked Andrews as he stepped out into a light drizzle.

He ticked off a few more current and former elected officials as he embarked for a morning of campaigning in the hottest race in town, the Democratic primary for the open 11th Congressional District seat, which has attracted national attention as a well-funded white candidate is challenging three African Americans for a seat rich in symbolism.

Andrews, who turns 50 a few days before the election, has a long history of ties to the district, having grown up in Crown Heights, where he says was inspired by Rep. Shirley Chisholm, the first person elected to the seat when it was created in 1965. He also worked for Rep. Major Owens, whose retirement after 24 years created the vacancy. The Medgar Evers College graduate has served on his local community school board and as well as a Democratic state committee member in his district.

Ninety-nine percent of his Senate district is within the congressional district, which is 58 percent black. But Andrews might need all the help he can get from his broad coalition of supporters to broaden his base outside Crown Heights and stand out from the other three candidates in the race.

The support of the AFL-CIO may boost turnout of his supporters, and the backing in particular of Spitzer — the attorney general and frontrunner for governor — may serve him well in the Jewish community. Andrews was director of intergovernmental relations or Spitzer until his election to the Senate in 2002.

“He has a good working relationship with the Jewish community and his access to Eliot Spitzer is another attraction for members of the Jewish communal leadership,” says political consultant Ezra Friedlander.

But it’s another affiliation that keeps dogging Andrews in this election: His close ties to former Assemblyman Clarence Norman, the ex-chairman of the Kings County Democratic organization who was convicted for violating election law.

Known to be close friend of Norman, Andrews admitted in an interview with The Village Voice that the party chief helped get him on the payroll of the state Senate in the minority leader’s office in the ‘90s, and although he is not a lawyer, he has been awarded more than $137,000 by Brooklyn judges in receivership fees for securing assets for creditors in mortgage foreclosures. Andrews held a series of positions with Brooklyn elected officials until 2002, when he ran with Norman’s backing for the vacant senate seat of Marty Markowitz, who was elected borough president.

The relationship has dominated the race to such an extent that Andrews has grown accustomed to saying “My name is Carl Andrews, not Clarence Norman.”

In an interview Tuesday, Andrews insists the voters aren’t interested. “When I do subways, knock on doors and visit senior citizens and go to church, the only thing I hear about is where’s the victory party, how’s your sister, I remember you when you were a little boy and all that,” said Andrews. “People know that I’ve been living and working in this district all my life and that my name is Carl Andrews. Clarence Norman is Clarence Norman. They know the difference.”

Of the cloud hanging over the Brooklyn Democratic machine after Norman, Andrews says, “they have a suspect reputation, but in time and under evaluation people will come to their own conclusion about the level of corruption. Like most companies and political organizations there are high points and low points.”

Andrews has served for the last four years in the minority party of the Senate, where Democrats can’t get much done legislatively. But he presents that experience as an asset.

“If the Democrats don’t take back the House in this election, I have had four years of experience fighting the Republicans and being able to bring results to my district in that capacity,” he says. “Hopefully I’ll be able to do that when I go to Washington.”


The larger issue looming over the primary has been race, and whether the 1965 Voting Rights Act, which led to the creation of the 11th District, was intended to guarantee a black representative. The candidates include three African Americans — Andrews, Councilwoman Yvette D. Clarke and Owens’s son, Chris Owens — and Councilman David Yassky, who moved his home a few blocks on the same street in order to live in the district. Yassky picked up the valuable endorsement of The New York Times Wednesday.

Andrews has not argued that Yassky shouldn’t represent the district.

“From the very beginning I have said that David Yassky has every right to run,” he said. “There are other issues that people in this district and others around the state should look at.” He notes that Markowitz, who is also white and Jewish, long represented the heavily black neighborhoods Andrews now serves.

“People are not uncomfortable voting for people who are not of the majority race of the district,” he says.

When campaigning among Jews, Andrews says he most often hears about the need for more affordable housing and high education costs.

“I don’t support vouchers at the moment because I feel we should make sure we strengthen our public schools and don’t take away resources,” says Andrews, who is endorsed by the United Federation of Teachers — ardent foes of private school tuition vouchers. “I’m more in favor of the approach we took in the Assembly, tax credits for everyone who has children.”

On the subject of Israel, Andrews, who made his first visit there about 18 months ago, said he approves of the Bush administration’s handling of the Middle East. While he would like to see more diplomacy between Israel and the Palestinians, he said the time did not appear to be right to press for more talks.

“If you have a situation where both countries feel the existence of each other is proper, then you have the basic grounds to establish [talks],” he said. “It’s hard to sit down with someone who doesn’t believe you have a right to exist … The Palestinians have to understand and the Hamas government has to understand that Israel has a right to exist.”

While opposing the Iraq war, Andrews said it was unrealistic to expect a quick timetable for bringing the U.S. troops home.

“It took two years to get to the maximum military strength, it should take us two years or less to withdraw those same troops,” he said.


After an interview Andrews, with his Orthodox campaign aide Michael Cohen, heads for Midwood’s Avenue J shopping strip to campaign with Dov Hikind, the Orthodox assemblyman who represents Borough Park and part of Flatbush.

Comfortably exchanging banter, Hikind and Andrews appear to have a friendship honed over many years.

Andrews, however, says he’s not enthusiastic about a recent idea by Hikind to allow law enforcement officers to use racial or ethnic profiling in security screenings.

“Having been profiled myself on several occasions, I’m one that is not ready to use that as the main instrument of protecting ourselves. I wouldn’t think it’s something we need to legislate,” says Andrews, who recalled being pulled over by a highway patrolman on his way home from Albany. Due to an error, his state-government license plate was mistaken for one that was reported stolen, and the matter was quickly cleared up.

“But you have to wonder why, of all the cars on the highway that night, you would just roll up behind me and punch my license plate into your computer,” he says.

On Avenue J, it’s pouring, but that doesn’t stop Hikind and Andrews from popping into shops and restaurants to talk to mostly Orthodox voters.

When an Orthodox woman extends her hand to be courteous, contrary to strict custom, he holds his own up in the air. “I don’t want to get in trouble,” he jokes.

Later, he reminds another voter “I’m not running against Joe Lieberman,” before explaining, “You know Major Owens? I’ll be replacing him.”

When Andrews and Hikind sit down for coffee at Jerusalem II Pizza, Hikind extols the virtues of Andrews not making an issue of Yassky’s race.

“The most important issue is to have someone you feel comfortable with,” says Hikind. “He’s been a part of the Crown Heights community all his life. He’s been the official Shabbos goy for a lot of people. He’s someone you can talk to and relate to.”

True to Andrews’ assertions, the name of Clarence Norman never comes up in half an hour of campaigning and numerous conversations with voters. But many of them aren’t up to speed on the race and who the candidates are.

When asked if she’ll vote for Andrews, one woman said her family had to study the issues.

“We’ll do our due diligence,” she said.


  • 1. Chona Nosson Gewirtz wrote:

    He grew up at 1068 Lincoln Place, just across the street from me. His sister, who is very nice and is president of our block association, still lives there.

  • 2. I know what I-m talking about. wrote:

    ANDREWS has been a great friend of our community. He would listen & work with us. Yassky’s heart is not here – regardless of his color and/or birthright. Owens is a dud. Clarke is also a good friend even though she represented only a corner of our community.

    Bottom line: Andrews knows the score and could represent us well.

  • 3. BORUCH N. HOFFINGER wrote:

    Too bad he mentioned David Diinkins( YM’S ), the racist,
    Nazi. After an attempted murder on the first night of the Pogrom,
    he goes to visit Yankel Rosenbaum (who died soon afterwards from
    hospital incompetence- Kings County) and has the gall and ego,
    to permit the Pogrom to continue for 3 days.
    Perhaps someone else would be murdered? Did he, or the city, state or
    federal governments really care? NO! But, don’t forget to put on your
    seatbelt! Don’t forget to signal! These are safety methods for you and
    others. SHEKER! Esav Society is SHEKER! They want to collect fiine money
    more than protect and save lives!
    Someone said: "He wan’t so bad (as a mayor) so much as he was
    incompetent). The Rebbe (MH"M) said the same thing about the Israeli
    government: "If you want to sit iin your seat of power, but it endagers Jews (people) take your seat home!" If you can’t stand the heat get out of the kitchen! M U R D E R E R!

  • 4. Dovid Finkel wrote:

    The shoe drops: NY Daily News reports Friday that the Crown Heights PAC will endorse David Yassky. And this is the new Crown Heights PAC, not the one-man Chanina band.

  • 5. Milhouse wrote:

    Note for anyone thinking of voting for Yassky: the New York Times just endorsed him; shouldn’t that make you reconsider your vote? If the NYT likes him, then you can be reasonably sure that he’s the worst candidate in the race.

    And don’t forget that while the primary is in September, there’s an election two months later, and in that your choice is not limited to Democrats. By all means vote for Andrews in September, but give him the Finger in November, by voting for Dr Steve Finger, Republican/Libertarian (and also a yid, if that matters to you).

  • 6. Dovid Finkel wrote:

    I saw Yassky in Crown Heights several times. And he has been very helpful to the Crown Heights organizations. If "I know what I am talking about" could come forward and tell us why he is so much anti-Yassky. Andrews is part of the Clarence Norman corrupt machine which the former sperlin belonged to. That’s not healthy anymore.

  • 7. yossy wrote:

    vote andrews he’s the best for crown heights and dont
    belive most of the stuff in that artical its from a lefty news paper andrews wont bother israel to give land away

  • 8. dr. wong wrote:

    i think that andrews backed by dov hikind is our best bet. yassky , a leftest, would be a disaster[sic]. i missed something. who’s the new c.h. pac?

  • 9. Dovid Finkel wrote:

    Andrews will be campaigning with AL SHARPTON every day according to the Saturday NY TIMES. Andrews is also one and the same as Clarence Norman, the corupt jail-bound bird who co-opted Hanina Sperlin for photos and gallery passes to events in return for clubhouse support. Sperlin pocketed all the money from Norman and Norman handpicked Andrews for state patronage jobs, according to the newspapers. A vote for Andrews is a vote to continue corruption and to continue phony politics in Crown Heights.

  • 10. shliach from afar wrote:

    Sounds like Chanina or one of his cronies wrote the 1st comment! What has Andrews done for the community anyhow? How can he represent us well in Washington? By hiring another Chanina patronage crony?

  • 11. Joseph Steinherz wrote:

    Carl Andrews has worked to secure funding for many Jewish organisations, despite the wishes of Jew haters among our non-Jewish neighbours who would have wished otherwise.
    During the Riots in 91, he was meeting with youths on the street and advising calm. In an ethnicly diverse district, he has seen to the needs of all of his constituents. Although he could easily mobilise support by criticising his opponent’s ethnicity he has refrained from doing so.
    Unlike Yassky, who moved right over the border of the district shortly before the deadline, Andrews has worked in and lived in our district his whole life. He knows the needs of all of our subcommunities very well.
    Unless one is alleging actual wrong doing on the part of Carl Andrews, it is wrong to infer malfeasance on his part because of necessary past political alliances.
    In light of Andrews long standing kindness and friendship to our community, it would be indecent to forsake him for the extravagant promises of his opponent who has no proven track record in understanding the complex needs of this district.
    As much as I would like to be able to support the Crown Heights PAC’s endorsement, I have no choice but to follow my conscience and support Carl Andrews

  • 12. josef wrote:

    On Saturday nights Dov Hikind show he had Sperlin and Andrews on.Andrews refferd to the 91 C.H. riots as a disturbance. Thats a true friend.

  • 13. Dovid Finkel wrote:

    All four candidates are lefties, including Andrews who has the support of thefat leftie teachers union UFT/NYSUT (anti-voucher, anti-yeshiva funding) and the leftist AFL-CIO. Plus with Sharpton’s support, he’s one of the worst. Chris Owens has the Amsterdam News (anti-semitic) supporting him. And Clarke has the leftie union 1199 in her corner. Only Yassky is indpendent of the leftist unions.

  • 14. Joseph Steinherz wrote:

    The political center in New York is very far to the left of the rest of the country. Even mayor Giuliani is considered to be quite liberal in the rest of the country. The Jewish Press has enthusiastically endorsed Carl Andrews. The government grants that he has gotten for orgaisations in our community are a matter of public record. You must consider the unusual political environment that Andrews and others are operating in. And don’t forget that he has stood by us in face of pressure to do the opposite. Let us not forget that. we should stand by those who stand by us.


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