Is Congressman Towns Afraid of Kevin Powell?

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In an essay given to newsone.com via email, Kevin Powell, who is running for a Congressional seat for the 10th Congressional District (encompassing Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn Heights, Brownsville, Canarsie, East New York and Ocean Hill, as well as parts of Fort Greene, Prospect Heights and Williamsburg) outlined what he claims are tactics by his opponent, Congressman Edolphus “Ed” Towns to avoid a public campaign. Powell says Towns is using an obscure loophole to try to undermine his campaign and take him to court this Monday, August 2, 2010.

Two weeks ago Towns avoided a public debate with him, Powell said in a phone interview with newsone.com:

“He didn’t show up for the debate at Bethany Baptist Church,” says Powell. “He did the same thing in 1998, 2000, and 2006. It’s a formula that many black elected officials use. As long as they remain relatively invisible and have a loyal base they can count on to get votes, they can get away with it.”

Congressman Edolphus Towns did not return a request to be interviewed by newsone.com by press time.

See essay below:

By Kevin Powell

We need to talk about democracy in America. We need real dialogue, real elections, real ideas. Right here in Brooklyn, New York (New York’s largest borough and America’s 4th largest city if we were our own city), we’ve been talking about HIV/AIDS death rates, New York’s draconian application of “stop and frisk,” and how to create an education system designed to give all children the math and science skills we need to conquer cancer. We’re talking housing, green spaces, war and peace, access to healthy food, government corruption, and jobs. We’re talking. We’re trying. We’re working. That is why I am running for Congress this year. I believe in the possibilities of us all, if we work to our fullest potential, if opportunities are there, if we come together as human beings who genuinely care about America, and our world.

The only person as far as I can see who refuses to join this conversation is my opponent, Congressman Edolphus “Ed” Towns of Brooklyn, New York’s 10th Congressional District. He has failed to show up at public debates. He’s failed to show his face in whole neighborhoods for decades. He’s failed to offer much of anything in Congress, sponsoring a grand total of 6 bills in 27 years (that’s a rate of 0.22 bills per year).

By almost any measure, that’s failure. But on Monday morning, Mr. Towns will fail one more time as he tries to have our Congressional campaign removed from the ballot in a New York State Court for a failure to provide adequate signatures and a claim that I don’t live in the 10th Congressional District.

For the record, we provided six times the necessary signatures expecting a challenge at the Board of Elections. Our volunteers worked tirelessly to collect them, which anyone who has ever been involved in a campaign knows is incredibly tough work. We crossed every “t” and dotted every “i” with the assistance of people who know every inch of election law. Are some of them invalid? Yes. That always happens, through no fault of our volunteers. That’s why we secured six times what was required by the Board of Elections.

The Board of Elections also happens to be where you challenge someone’s signatures. We know because just this week we challenged a third candidate who failed to present even the minimum number required, assuming all of his were valid. We also believed this individual to be a spoiler candidate (to take votes from me) for Congressman Towns, a technique he has used in past elections when he felt his reign over huge chunks of Brooklyn threatened.

But Mr. Towns did not challenge our signatures at the Board of Elections. In fact, he named them as a co-party in his court action, claiming they were involved in a vast conspiracy to get us on the ballot. On Monday morning, August 2nd, they are on our side of this absurd fishing expedition on behalf of the Congressman.

And fishing expedition it is. One of my attorneys, Aaron Golembiewski (also our Policy Director), walked directly into Congressman Towns’ attorney’s office on Thursday, July 29th, demanding to know what this motion was really about. The attorney, Bernard Alter, is the same lawyer who, in 2000, claimed he was working on behalf Congressman Towns, and allegedly demanded $140,000 from a civil court judge who asked him to help run her re-election campaign. But when the judge, who was running unopposed, warned Mr. Alter that the demand amounted to a “bribe,” Mr. Towns’ team allegedly encouraged a relatively unknown lawyer to challenge this judge:

http://www.villagevoice.com/2000-08-22/news/140-000-for-a-judgeship/

Apparently no wiser than he was in 2000, here are Mr. Alter’s responses to Mr. Golembiewski’s questions: “Well, we don’t really know if we have anything just yet. We’re working this weekend to figure it out” is telling. Mr. Alter also complimented our campaign on having “quite an operation” and wanted to discuss Congressman Charlie Rangel, whose unethical behavior we recently compared to Congressman Towns’. Why the Congressman surrounds himself with such people is becoming clearer every day. Congressman Rangel is not the only New York representative with serious ethical lapses. Mr. Towns is right there with, ranging from his retaining this kind of lawyer, to earlier this year when he tried to steer $5 million in tax-payer money to a shaky non-profit with an abandoned building as its address.

So we know Mr. Towns is scared. Only a scared incumbent would drag his opponent and the Board of Elections into court to try to remove his opponent from the ballot. Only a scared incumbent would bypass the Board of Elections knowing we had six times the necessary signatures. Only a scared incumbent would serve me papers at my home in the district and then claim I do not live in the district.

And only a scared incumbent is hoping a judge will buy into his Monday morning fishing expedition to essentially eliminate the possibility of the people having a choice for Congress in our Democratic Primary Election on Tuesday, September 14, 2010.

Because that’s what Congressman Ed Towns is at age 76, and after 27 long and very mediocre years in office: a scared incumbent.

So rather than talk about HIV/AIDS death rates, civil liberties, education, housing, green spaces, war, access to healthy food, government corruption, jobs, and how we can he best serve the people of Brooklyn and the United States of America, Congressman Ed Towns has gone fishin’.

And he’s going to fail. Again.

Kevin Powell is a 2010 Democratic candidate for the United States House of Representatives in Brooklyn, New York’s 10th Congressional district. He can be reached at http://www.kevinpowell.net

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