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America in the Eye of the Telescope Site

In Transit

LOS ANGELES — At the long rented tables inside the door of Kennedy-for-President head­quarters, three middle-aged lad­ies wearing Kennedy hats were selling bumper stickers and post­ers. It was the afternoon after Nebraska and you arrived ex­pecting elation, perhaps even eu­phoria; instead the three middle­-aged ladies sat there rather­ glumly, staring out at the bright clean sidewalks of Wilshire Boul­evard and the plump, suited fig­ures of other ladies shopping at the Broadway across the street.

“What’s the matter?” I asked one of them, a blue-haired lady nervously shuffling bumper stickers. “I thought you’d have a party going here.”

“Oh, no, “she said, smiling metallically. “We’re just begin­ning. The real one is just be­ginning.”

She was right, of course, In­diana, the District of Columbia, and Nebraska were important enough; Kennedy could not have afforded to lose any of them. But the real fight is in Califor­nia. This is the heart of the new United States, and if he cannot win convincingly, Hubert Humphrey will be the next President of the United States.

“The other ones were just the preliminaries,” a young USC graduate said. “It’s sort of like the heavyweight elimination. You can’t afford to lose any of them, but the last one is the big one.”

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Away down Wilshire Boule­vard, in Beverly Hills, McCarthy for President headquarters had seemied like a West Coast ver­sion of Walter B. Cooke’s. One lovely little girl sat behind a table covered with literature and her face was so wasted and forlorn that you felt like taking her to a Laurel and Hardy movie just to give her some perspec­tive.

“It’s so … unfair!” she said.

Kennedy headquarters was something else: it had a kind of motion and fury to it, played against a background of jerky shabbiness. The walls were painted red, white, and blue; adorned with posters of the candidate. People were dashing ev­erywhere: the three middle-aged ladies were the somber window dressing for a jumble of ham­mering typewriters, clattering mimeograph machines, ringing telephones, blasting tv sets, rad­ios turned to the all-news chan­nel. Young girls with impossibly white teeth and Kennedy hats gathered up clusters of posters and signs to take to the airport to greet the candidate. They walked across a floor littered with a compost of cigarette butts, crushed coffee cups, discarded press releases, balled carbon paper, and crusts of Dan­ish pastries. They were pretty but they were like all the chicks you ever saw around a cam­paign headquarters: clean, straight, smart, and oddly sex­less; in the sack, they probably hollered for the Candidate.

The men in Kennedy head­quarters were something else. All the younger guys seemed to have been pressed from the same mold at the Rent-a-Volun­teer-with-Pragmatic-Com­passion Works. They wore grey suits on the street, and in the office hiked their shirt-sleeves halfway up the forearm, in case a photographer from Look drop­ped by. They all had horn-rim­med glasses. They all had tight law-school mouths. They all smoked thin panatella cigars. And they were all pricks. That is, they were almost without ex­ception rude, bursting with self-importance, quick to hang up telephones, incapable of return­ing calls, and for most purposes unconcerned with anything ex­cept the technical processes of politics.

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With a few exceptions, Ken­nedy had nothing to do with en­listing these people. Most of them, I’m told, have come out of the Jesse Unruh operation in California. Unruh does not run a machine, in the old sense of that word; but in Democratic politics in this state he has the best organization. The trouble is that the guys who work for him now feel they are working for a winner at last, after the Pat Brown and Pierre Salinger di­sasters. And they feel that they can win without any outside help. The major organizational problem Kennedy has in California has been caused by the Unruh men who answer the telephones; hundreds of people who wanted to work for Kennedy were told by Unruh’s people to forget it, they had enough help. These po­tential volunteers have gone to work for McCarthy, or the Peace and Freedom Party, or stayed home. (I haven’t heard of any­one joining up with Hubert, the Soul Brother.)

My brother Brian and I were standing around when one ot the volunteers came over. He was one of the few fat guys in the place, and stuttered a little.

“You going to the airport?” he said.

“Yeah … ”

“Can you take two riders?”

“Sure.”

Why not? I told Brian. We’re going out there anyway. A few minutes later the fat guy came back with a girl and a pile of posters.

“You can squeeze in some more people, can’t you?”

“No.”

The guy looked miffed. We went and got the car, and the fat guy and his girl and his hats and his posters all piled into the back. We started for the San Diego freeway and the airport. After two blocks the fat guy said: “Roll the window down, will you?”

“Can I smoke?” I asked.

“Let him walk,” Brian said.

“Just don’t want to get a cold,” the fat guy said.

I rolled the window up. The girl was quiet and the fat guy started talking about how ter­rible it was that Kennedy was late after all the planning they had done. I rolled the window down.

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Kennedy was expected at American Airlines Gate 44, and all the way to the airport a disc jockey who sounded like 1958 Bruce Morrow announced the ar­rival time every 10 minutes. I expected 10,000 people. There were about 100 there when we arrived. They were clustered a­round the gate, with the press off in the waiting area on the side. About 60 Kennedy girls in tight white blouses and plastic boaters were rehearsing a song while a woman’s voice led them on from same mysterious loud­speaker. The song kept repeating a line that talked about  “… conscience with a capital K …” It sounded like a song construct­ed by Jimmy Van Heusen for the Ku Klux Klan.

All the little girls were white, except for one pretty black chick with blue eyes (sorry, Rap) who was brought up to the front for the photographers. A black guy and his wife and six-year-old daughter leaned over the fence to see Kennedy. The man car­ried a Kodak. I asked him why he was there.

“Bobby’s my man.” he said. “I want my daughter to see him too.”

“We never saw President Ken­nedy in the flesh,” his wife said. “And so we want the little girl to see Bobby.”

The little girl watched the cameramen, who were banging and tripping each other with cameras and wires. As usual they reminded me of the CBS reporter who once said, “If I ever have a retarded child, God forbid, I won’t worry. I’ll just enroll him in the cameraman’s union.” Then a middle-aged wo­man came to the front, trim, neat, bright-eyed, in a white dress a couple of inches above the knee, looking like she drank Tanqueray in the summer and Chivas Regal in the winter and subscribed dutifully to the New York Review. She started danc­ing, cold sober, and I realized she was the cheerleader. She started singing again about con­science with a capital K, and all the Kennedy girls did their best, while the reporters and photo­graphers stared dully at them and I wondered if there were any girls in California with flat chests and cavities. They weren’t at the airport.

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After awhile a squad of the pricks arrived carrying clipboards and folders, smoking those goddamned small cigars, wearing the tight mouths and the horn-rimmed glasses. They started pushing the crowd around and making Terse Announcements about how Kennedy would first make a statement to the press and then would walk through a kind of gauntlet of Kennedy girls “so you can all see him.” Then they started arranging the reporters, with the tv guys in front, followed by a few lonely magazine reporters, and the local newspapers some­where around the candy stand in the next terminal. The crowd was growing bigger now, with people standing up on the stairs to the left and a few cops drifting around the edges.

About 7:30 the plane arrived, and the crowd had grown to about 1000. Those reporters who had not been given a week off by their bosses trailed off first, limp and pale, toting typewriters. The cameramen crashed forward, a wall of them, and the girls’ choir came on about the conscience with a capital K, and you could hear screaming and shouting, and there was Kennedy, with tired lines around his eyes, blue-grey suit, his lips moving into the cluster of microphones, and I decided to get the hell out of there.

I made it just in time: the line of girls were pushed forward, some women screamed, the black guy was wobbling with his daughter on his shoulder, and the cameramen were committing various acts of mayhem as they shot film they must have known would never be used. Another mob was in the rotunda near the escalator. One of the pricks pushed a tv report­er and the tv reporter gave him a good shove back. More screaming. A little girl fell.

“I touched his hand, I touched his hand,” said one of the long-­haired California girls.

“I’d hate to tell you where I touched him,” her girl friend said, all teeth and innocence.

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And then we were down the stairs and moving fast along the shiny corridor between the hori­zontal escalators that they use to move people in L.A. Kennedy did his best to smile while people leaped around him and then he was outside, climbing into the convertible, while the press buses loaded, and we went off behind him to Valley College in Van Nuys.

The trip took us north on the freeways, heading for the blue ridge of mountains that separates L.A. from the San Fernando Valley. Mayor Yorty had provided two motorcycle cops and a stationwagon with two more to follow the press buses. We didn’t know until later that the Van Nuys cops had received a call from some terrified citizen saying that his brother was going to shoot Kennedy.

We got off the freeway at Burbank Boulevard and passed into a neighborhood of town houses, clotheslines, gas stations, kids on bikes. A sound truck had plowed the route earlier, warning the residents that Ken­nedy was coming. The reception from knots of scattered people was warm. The kids on the bikes kept up with the motorcade all the way to the college. I saw one Nixon sign, one sign that simply said “Eccch!”, and about 50 Kennedy signs. At one point, a lone man in a sleeveless undershirt stood out in the street under the trees and shouted, “Booo.” That’s all he said, and you wondered what the hell his kids thought of him.

There were cops blocking traf­fic at the college, and they stopped a black reporter in a Volkswagen in front of us and made him park three blocks away. They couldn’t let us do anything else. We parked and started running through the cool evening after the twin red eyes of the press bus. It was beautiful: kids on an overpass, someone yelling into a bullhorn, and Brian and me running through the tennis courts on the trail of the candidate. And all around us young college kids were running too, in the direction of the great ugly brown building where Kennedy was scheduled to speak.

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The motorcade stopped at the front door and the McCarthy signs started waving high. Kennedy tried to get out, and the cops started rapping people with bats held at each end. I was on the side beside a hedge of pine trees as we all tried to get into the gym behind Kenne­dy.

This was impossible. When Kennedy was through the door, they slammed it behind him and locked it.

“It’s all right, it’s all right, there’s a loudspeaker.”

“What about the press?”

“Go around the back.”

A guy fell on the ground beside me, and a girl stepped on him, and we cleared some room. “I lost my shoe!” he said. There seemed to be nowhere to move, so Brian and I started to crawl under the pine trees. A big dark grey dog stared us in the eye.

“The hell with it,” I said. We ran around to the back, and the door there was locked too. Three football players arrived and started crashing with their fists against the door. It looked cer­tain that we’d be arrested if we stayed with them. That, or torn limb from limb by the people charged with feeding them. We went around to the front again and finally convinced a cop that we were supposed to be on the inside. We stepped through, fol­lowed suddenly by the football players. Another beautiful eve­ning in the only life I will ever have.

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Kennedy was already talking when we came into the gym. There were about 8000 young people in the place. The McCar­thy kids were in the stands flanking the speaker’s platform and down in front, seated on the floor, were some of the kids from the Peace and Freedom Party, who looked like the Mc­Carthy kids before they cut their hair.

Kennedy was talking about welfare and the need to give citizens jobs. It was a familiar theme, and Kennedy himself seemed a bit bored by it. The formal speech was repetitious and ragged and was not really what these young sons and daughters of the middle class had come to hear. They wanted to hear about Vietnam and true change in the American system. Kennedy was not giving that to them, though he was applauded loudly and often. He talked about how great numbers of Americans were hungry and humiliated, “how some of them might have wanted husbands, some of them might have wanted fathers, and we have only given them checks.” He talked about what a disaster the welfare system was, how demeaning and ugly it was. He started building then, throwing the prepared speech away. He talked about the law passed by Congress last year that will cut off vast numbers of children from even the humiliating sub­sistence of welfare. “Those chil­dren have a choice between starving to death or moving,” Kennedy said. “I’ve seen them, in the state of Mississippi, with their bellies swollen and their faces covered with sores …” He enumerated and exploded some of the myths about the poor. “It is simply not true that the poor do not want to work,” he said. “It is far more likely to be children of favored families rather than the poor …”

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Then there was a question period and Kennedy was better than he ever is with prepared speeches. Some of the kids were nasty and bitter, and after one particularly snotty question, Kennedy said, with a tired voice, “What we need in the country is to cut down the belligerence. If we let this hatred and emotion control our lives, we’re lost.”

“It’s our lives!” one of the Peace and Freedom kids yelled.

Kennedy talked about the draft, as he always does with college audiences, and tried again to say to them that if they really oppose the war, if they were against the draft, they should follow their consciences on the matter. “But you also have to face the consequences of your actions,” he said. This never goes over well, because most of these kids have grown up believing that there are no consequences to their actions. (Joel Oppenheimer once ex­plained why he can’t take pot­heads seriously: “The drinker pays with a hangover. The junkie pays with a big habit. The pothead never pays.”)

Kennedy’s line of argument infuriated the Peace and Freedom kids. They shouted and booed and interrupted both questions and answers. “You fascist pig!” one kid said (seriously). Others threw tantrums, like nine-year-­olds being asked to clean up after a birthday party. They looked as if they wanted to kill somebody, and they were in the same ugly mood when the even­ing ended and Kennedy made his way outside to the convertible.

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A group of them stationed themselves on the school overpass, and as Kennedy’s car started moving they unleashed a barrage of small stones, pebbles, apple cores, and other debris. This was in the name of social and racial justice, of course. Kennedy was not hit, but he slid down into the seat. Fred Dutton, of Kennedy’s staff, was hit on the head. The kids were ranting on the overpass, and I tried to get up there. The cops sealed it off. Kennedy’s car dis­appeared into the quiet side streets, heading for the Ambas­sador Hotel and some sleep.

I don’t believe that those young people were just an obscure case, hardened up by the barbarities of Marxist prose. No. They were the truest children of the Johnson era, because if the past few dirty years have taught us anything, they have taught us how to hate. Hatred on the left is even more vile and disgusting than hatred on the right, because it clothes itself in the rhetoric of decency. All those people sitting around the West Side getting their I-hate-Bobby rocks off are not much different from the George Wallace animals; they just think that their hatred is purer. They’ve made Kennedy into Savanarola and McCarthy into Francis of Assisi and when the primaries are over, the hatred will go even wider, hitting Humphrey and Rockefeller and Nixon too.

I think Kennedy is a decent man; he is the only politician now functioning on a national level who presents at least the possibility of bringing us back from the brink of race war; personally, he is the only politician I know who has never lied to me. He’ll have my vote no matter how many potential Walt Ros­tows now are attaching themselves to his campaign. But it would be self-deception of the worst kind to believe that any single man will save America. Kennedy alone will not do it; McCarthy can’t and Nixon would only push us into a seething cauldron, like Mexico about 1917. It’s too late for fairy tales, especially when we tell them to ourselves. I enjoy funny hats, balloons, campaign songs, and the rest of it. But 562 American men were slaughtered in Viet­nam last week. They are what politics is about this year. The smug, pampered, self-righteous kid who takes rocks into the darkness of an overpass and pelts a candidate with them is only a step away from picking up a Mannlicher Carcano with a telescopic sight. He is what politics is about in 1968 too. The cold dumbness of the pragma­tists killed those kids in Viet­nam. The Cocktail Party Left with its nasty little sophistries and its thrall at the prospect of violence put the rocks in those kids’ hands. I’d like to see America saved, but that’s not going to happen until all of us, the left even more than the right, begin to de-escalate our capacity for glib hatreds. Politics used to be our national clown show; but it has become an ugly confrontation between armies of opposing haters, and if it keeps going that way, we’re doomed. ♦

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Brooklyn D.A. Eric Gonzalez Leads a Contested Primary in a Race With Real Consequences

Eric Gonzalez couldn’t believe his boss, Brooklyn district attorney Ken Thompson, was really dying. At some point, Gonzalez hoped, the colorectal cancer would go into remission. Thompson — the borough’s first black district attorney, who had campaigned as a transformational figure — had told Gonzalez, his top deputy, that he planned to return. But he didn’t think he’d have the strength to run for re-election.

“He said to me, ‘You should think about running for D.A.’ And I said, ‘I’m not gonna go down that route,’” Gonzalez told the Voice from a sparsely furnished campaign office in Downtown Brooklyn.

“I just said, ‘We’ll talk about it when you get back.’”

Thompson would never get to have that conversation. On October 9, 2016, he died at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in Manhattan. He was fifty. Gonzalez, a career prosecutor with no experience leading an organization of any kind or speaking in front of city journalists, was suddenly in charge of one of the largest district attorney’s offices in America.

As the acting district attorney, and now seeking a full term, Gonzalez has all the trappings of an incumbent: a formidable fundraising lead, scores of endorsements from politicians and labor unions, and the ability to stage headline-grabbing press conferences. Thompson’s widow is supporting him.

What Gonzalez hasn’t done is ward off challengers, most of them ex-colleagues, in what is unquestionably the most consequential race in New York City this election season.

The Democratic primary for district attorney in overwhelmingly Democratic Brooklyn is not simply another campaign bunched in with a sleepy mayoral contest and various City Council races. It will determine the directions of the lives of the hundreds of thousands of people who come into contact with an enormous and often punishing criminal justice system. Kings County is one of the largest and most diverse in the entire country. If Gonzalez, forty-eight, triumphs next month, he will be able to chart a course that district attorneys in other cities will look to and follow.

“Brooklyn has become a leader nationally for its unwillingness to prosecute low-level cases and its bureau that looks at wrongful convictions,” said JoAnn Page, the president and CEO of the Fortune Society, a nonprofit that provides support to the formerly incarcerated.

Under Thompson, who defeated longtime incumbent Charles “Joe” Hynes in an acrimonious 2013 campaign, the Brooklyn D.A.’s office stopped prosecuting low-level marijuana arrests. It had already established a much-heralded unit to review wrongful convictions during Hynes’s transformative, though troubled, two-decade tenure.

In the Thompson (and now Gonzalez) era, the Brooklyn D.A.’s office has asked judges on twenty-three occasions to free defendants who shouldn’t be in prison. Fighting back against the Trump White House, Gonzalez has demanded that ICE agents stop making arrests at courthouses where, in his estimation, they’re also making witnesses and defendants afraid to appear in court. Along with D.A.s in three other boroughs, he expunged a backlog of decades-old warrants and summonses. In Brooklyn, there were 143,000.

Gonzalez grew up in Williamsburg and came of age in East New York in the 1980s, when the Brooklyn neighborhood was racked with violence. Shootings fractured the night. Crack cocaine was rampant.

“As a young boy, all I really saw in my community was violence. I wanted to accomplish something with my life, and the only thing I really knew was crime,” he recalled. “Growing up then, it was not just about the crime but about the dysfunction of the community, which included a significant distrust of law enforcement. I don’t know what made me believe that if I sort of got into the belly of the beast I would be able to make a difference — but I did.”

Gonzalez attended John Dewey High School on Coney Island, a long ride from the neighborhood, and secured a spot at Cornell. After graduating from the University of Michigan Law School, he came home in 1995 to take a job as an assistant D.A. under Hynes. He was so eager to work in Brooklyn that he drove across the country for the job interview.

Looming over the field of six Democrats is not only Thompson’s legacy, which every candidate is quick to celebrate, but what Hynes left behind. Four of five of Gonzalez’s opponents — Anne Swern, Ama Dwimoh, Marc Fliedner, and Patricia Gatling — worked for Hynes, who was first elected in 1989. Those close to Hynes say he expressed a preference for Gatling, a former top deputy in his office, but she has struggled to gain traction in the race. (Neither Gatling nor Hynes could be reached for comment.)

Hynes, now eighty-two, suffered a stroke last year and is registered to vote in Breezy Point, Queens, so his degree of involvement in the race is unclear, though a large segment of the Brooklyn legal world remains loyal to him despite the many controversies that dogged the end of his tenure.

Hynes was the rare district attorney in New York to lose an election because of a spate of wrongful convictions on his watch, a failure compounded by corrupt detectives he was seen to have enabled, as well as by his inability to combat sex abuse in insular but politically powerful Orthodox Jewish communities. He lost support in the black neighborhoods of central Brooklyn that often sway Democratic primaries, especially as he clashed bitterly with Thompson, who was seen as a trailblazer.

Yet Hynes reformed the institution, too, pioneering alternatives to incarceration programs that are now staples of D.A.s’ offices in other big cities. In a higher-crime era, Hynes stood out for not simply measuring his office’s success by the number of people he sent to prison. Page, of the Fortune Society, points out that Hynes helped open the Drew House, a residential rehabilitative program for nonviolent first-time offenders.

Despite his unquestioned bond with Thompson, Gonzalez did not campaign for him in 2013. When asked if he voted for Thompson, Gonzalez demurred. “I will keep my vote to myself,” he said. “That’s something that’s private.”

Dwimoh, who ran a lauded special bureau on crimes against children under Hynes and left the office after she was accused, in 2010, of berating interns, proudly backed Thompson in 2013. “I was the only one working on behalf of Ken Thompson to get him elected while the rest were working on behalf of Joe Hynes,” she said. “It’s time for Brooklyn to rebuild.”

All six Democratic candidates have platforms that, to various degrees, bolster Thompson’s work. Dwimoh, who would be Brooklyn’s first black female D.A., wants to enhance the conviction review unit and believes, as other critics have charged, that Gonzalez has failed to hold accountable the detectives and prosecutors who built cases that ruined innocent people’s lives. She would create a commission, independent of the office, on prosecutorial misconduct.

Both Dwimoh, running with the backing of her current boss, Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, and Swern, a former top prosecutor under Hynes as well as a managing counsel for Brooklyn Defenders, support reducing the D.A.’s reliance on cash bail, though Swern is more willing to phase it out entirely. “I think cash bail should not exist where other means exist to assure defendants return to courts. I don’t believe in penalizing poverty,” Swern said. (Gonzalez is not willing to end cash bail, as the state of New Jersey has mostly done.)

The only candidate with lengthy experience as a defense lawyer, Swern wants to reform discovery laws that Gonzalez and other D.A.s have refused to permanently change. New York is one of only ten states where prosecutors may wait until just before a trial to share evidence. Gonzalez refuses to back legislation that would force prosecutors to turn over evidence much sooner, citing fears that witnesses won’t be properly protected.

“The rules of discovery in New York remain deeply problematic,” said Alex Vitale, a professor of sociology at Brooklyn College and the author of The End of Policing. “Defense attorneys are not getting potentially exculpatory evidence until the day before or day of a trial.”

Gonzalez’s fiercest critic, arguably, has been Fliedner, a prosecutor who worked with him under Thompson when the then-D.A. brought charges against an NYPD officer who, in 2014, shot and killed an unarmed black man, Akai Gurley, in a darkened stairwell. Thompson secured the conviction of the officer, Peter Liang, but declined to seek jail time, angering activists and Gurley’s family. Gurley’s aunt is backing Fliedner’s campaign.

“Eric Gonzalez was driving the decision that we shouldn’t seek jail time,” Fliedner said.

Another long-shot candidate, outgoing Brooklyn councilman Vincent Gentile, has attacked all of his opponents for working under Hynes, though he endorsed Hynes in 2013. Gentile once served as an assistant district attorney in the Queens office. “I’m the only one in the race who has the credentials, because I come to this job completely independent of the Brooklyn D.A.’s office,” Gentile said.

Swern and Dwimoh are the Democrats who probably pose the best, if still slim, chance of defeating Gonzalez next month. Swern, a Democratic district leader in brownstone Brooklyn, is a threat to pick off white progressives, while Dwimoh will compete for the black and Latino votes Gonzalez also needs in the central part of the borough.

The greater question, beyond the immediate jockeying, is how far the office will be willing to go to reshape a flawed criminal justice system and what role, in a time of historically low crime, a district attorney should play. “It’s a very interesting time to be district attorney, because they’re spending more time telling you who they’re not prosecuting rather than who they are,” said Eugene O’Donnell, a professor of criminal justice at John Jay College and a former prosecutor in the Brooklyn office.

If Gonzalez wins, reformers want to know how ambitious he will really be. Will he be simply coloring in the lines of Thompson’s legacy or pushing for more? In at least one instance, Gonzalez has shown a willingness to break with Thompson: He told the Voice he now supports the state attorney general’s office, instead of the local D.A., investigating cases of police killing unarmed civilians. Thompson bitterly opposed such a move.

Gonzalez, quietly, is also aware of the history he might make. If he wins, he will be Brooklyn’s first Latino D.A., and the only one statewide. As the campaign hits the home stretch, he often ponders this too.

“The community deserves to have someone who represents them,” he said. “I represent the American Dream.”

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Adriano Espaillat Throws In The Towel; Charlie Rangel — At 82 — Is Likely Heading Back To Congress

Congratulations, New York — the man to the right (at 82 years spry) is likely heading back to Washington D.C. to represent you in Congress for what will be his 22nd term as a member of the United States House of Representatives.

Congressman Charlie Rangel has (unofficially) fended off Democratic primary opponent/former state Senator Adriano Espaillat in a recount of last month’s primary election, which Rangel also won.

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“I look forward to working with him as we move forward in the 13th
Congressional District to ensure that the issues that are pertinent to
every resident – from the southern part of the district to the northern
part of the district and now parts of the Bronx are addressed and taken
care of,” Espaillat told supporters this afternoon.

Espaillat demanded a recount — after conceding defeat in the primary — after alleging Hispanic voters (who would
benefit the Hispanic Congressional wannabe) were turned away from voting
booths and bilingual election officials were replaced with ones who
only speak English.

The 2010 census redistricted Rangel into
New York’s 13th Congressional District, which is 55-percent Hispanic and is a shift from the predominantly African-American constiuency Rangel has enjoyed in his previous district for decades.

Regardless, the new district is still a Democratic stronghold, so Rangel shouldn’t have much trouble come general election time.

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Charlie Rangel Survives Primary (Despite Being 82 Years Old, Having Been Censured, And Being 82 Years Old)

Longtime Manhattan Congressman Charlie Rangel can breathe a sigh of relief — the 82-year-old Democrat has survived what was expected to be the fight of his political life.

Rangel, who fought in the Korean War before getting elected to Congress (42 years ago), came out on top in yesterday’s five-person Democratic primary — and that’s after he was formally censured by the House of Representatives for multiple ethical violations stemming from — among other ethical issues — his failure to pay taxes on income he received from a rental “villa” he owns in the Dominican Republic (that photo to the right is Charlie enjoying his villa).

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With 100 percent of precincts reporting, the unofficial final numbers
have Rangel with 45.7 percent of the vote to former state Senator
Adriano Espaillat’s 39.1 percent. Former Bill Clinton aide Clyde
Williams received 10.5 percent, while retired executive Joyce Johnson
received 3.2 percent. Former model Craig Schley finished at the bottom
of the heap with 1.5
percent of the vote.

Yesterday’s primary was the first time Rangel’s had to face voters since
getting censured — and since the 2010 census had him redistricted into
New York’s 13th Congressional District, which is 55-percent Hispanic,
an obvious benefit for Espaillat.

“There’ve been all kinds of questions asked of me in the last few
minutes,” Rangel told supporters last night. “Most of them is ‘How do you feel?’ And I cannot find
words to describe that.”

In addition to his ethical issues — and redistricting dilemma — Rangel
had trouble raising money for what is now his 22nd re-election
campaign. Fellow Democrats — who’d received favors from Rangel in the past — ponied up the cash to fuel his primary push.

Despite Rangel’s new district being predominantly Hispanic, it’s still a
Democratic stronghold. In other words, Rangel’s likely a shoo-in in the
general election.

So, congratulations, New York — chances are you’re sending an 82-year-old tax cheat back to the House of Representatives.

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Who Has Two Thumbs and Hates More Primaries? Mitt Romney!

First, there was Iowa and New Hampshire. Then, there was Super Tuesday. At some point, there were other Republican primaries. And tonight, the resilient candidates find themselves in Illinois — a contest that is “make-or-break” for Mitt Romney.

With 54 delegates up for grabs in the state that is home to Barack Obama’s 2012 headquarters, this is the second biggest haul of delegates in the election and a great opportunity for Romney to get crushed.

Now, Illinois is a more moderate state:with the Windy City at its core, the Republican voters want to hear more about fiscal control than birth control. The suburbs outside of Chicago are home to the more affluent conservatives; you know, voters who care about their money being taken away, not their religious freedoms. This area is also home to almost half of the entire statewide Republican vote and these Republicans love Romney.

The ex-governor of Massachusetts, taking note of this ideological difference and support, has campaigned across the Midwestern state, trumping his economic credentials as a firing connoisseur at Bain Capital.

Rather than isolating women voters with extreme talks of contraceptives and hard-core pornography, Romney has been speaking to them on a more advisory level, comfortably warning them that their car pooling trips to the soccer games could be drastically affected by soaring gas prices.

This scenario is actually playing out quite well in Mitt’s favor and the state polls are reflecting this sentiment.

Rick Santorum, on the other hand, is barnstorming across Illinois as the go-to culture warrior alternative, labeling Mitt as a “Wall Street financier” who wants to “run the economy.” Probably not the best idea in a state that has a 9.4% unemployment rate, a number that is 1.1% higher than the national average.

(While getting all riled up about his rival’s shift of attention toward gas prices and beating Obama, Rick let loose another gaffe that really drove this whole not-having-a-job point home: “I don’t care about the unemployment rate. Doesn’t matter to me.” Ouch.)

Rick’s support comes from “downstate” Illinois, where his limited range of demographics may or may not exist. This, of course, includes evangelicals, rural folk, and the voters that describe themselves as “very conservative;” all of which are electoral outliers in a state like Illinois.

This breakdown more or less guarantees a Romney victory in the state, a second-place fail for Santorum, who swears by a brokered convention, and an absolute upset for the candidate who cannot get enough of himself, Newt Gingrich. Ron Paul must be out there somewhere.