Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Towns, Longtime Congressman, Will Run Again by Gary Buiso - The Brooklyn Paper

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Rep. Ed Towns is hoping 15 is his lucky number.

Surrounded by family, friends and lawmakers, Towns (D-Fort Greene) this week announced his re-election campaign on the steps of Borough Hall, his 15th such announcement in a decades-long political career.

At the event, presided over by his son and heir apparent, Assemblyman Darryl Towns (D–Bushwick), the refrain sounded straight out of 1982 — the year America fell in love with an alien with a taste for Reese’s Pieces.

“We want ET! We want ET!” the crowd chanted.

But the cheers were for a more human ET — Towns, who began his first term as representative of the 10th Congressional District just one year after the sci-fi blockbuster, a career critics charge has been largely unremarkable, but boosted most recently by his selection as chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, a role that has given him national visibility.

On Monday, Towns was energized under a hot sun in a light gray suit and pink tie, pledging to unite a district that is home to the borough’s richest and poorest residents.

“We must come together!” Towns said.

Specifics were in short supply, but Towns said he planned to focus on promoting job growth, and pressuring banks that were rescued during the Great Recession to begin loaning money to businesses and individuals.

“Through this working-together-process, we can do better,” the lawmaker said.
Towns was introduced by former borough president Howard Golden, clad in a comfortable T-shirt and sweatpants. Back in 1976, Golden hired Towns to be his deputy borough president.

Colleagues heaped praise on the longtime lawmaker.

“He represents core Democratic ideals,” said Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-Coney Island), who pointed to Towns’s “fighting for the most vulnerable” of his district by working to preserve affordable housing. “Change is a wonderful thing — sometimes,” Nadler said to laughs.

But his 2008 opponent was less generous.

“I am sure there was a time that Mr. Towns was an engaged leader in Brooklyn,” said Kevin Powell, the former MTV-reality star and community organizer who pledged to take on Towns again this fall. “He is still operating in an old paradigm of machine politics — that he will [one day] pass the seat long to his son. That is not acceptable and that is not democracy.

“He has been purposefully invisible in the district, except to the handful of voters he needs to get elected every couple of years,” Powell continued.

In 2008, Towns defeated Powell in the primary with 67 percent of the vote compared to the challenger’s 33 percent.

“You can’t be invisible for 25 years in a district and expect to be elected again and again — that’s just insanity,” scoffed Towns spokesman Julian Phillips, who pointed to Towns’s support of a $60-million renovation of the Brooklyn Navy Yard, support of health care reform, and gun control as proof of his boss’s keen ear for his constituent’s concerns.

Supporters said they appreciated Towns’s everyman quality.

“He is a congressman you can speak to,” said Bedford-Stuyvesant resident Cecil Bruce.