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Candidates For 11th District Congressional Seat Face Off On NY1

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It's one of the most hotly contested Congressional primaries in the country, the race to succeed Major Owens in Brooklyn's 11th District. The candidates sounded off Thursday on Inside City Hall. NY1's Molly Kroon filed the following report.

It was a free-form debate, and at times it was a heated one, as the candidates for Brooklyn's 11th Congressional District — City Councilman David Yassky, City Councilwoman Yvette Clarke, State Senator Carl Andrews, and Chris Owens — went head to head on Inside City Hall Thursday night.

They're all in the race to succeed Owens' father, Major Owens, who's held the seat for 24 years. And the simmering controversy over Yassky — the only white candidate in the race — came out at the starting gate.

"I'm proud of the support from neighborhoods as different as Park Slope, which I represent, to the nearby public housing complexes, very different communities. In both cases, the community leadership supports me," said Yassky when asked by NY1's Dominic Carter about being labeled as an opportunist.

"I think this is a function of money, and that's what Washington is about. And we're trying to get away from that," said Owens. "We're trying to get away from 'might makes right' when it comes to dollars."

"He chose this district where at the time there were four black candidates running, and he had to have looked at that and said, 'well, I want to offer myself for public service and perhaps this is the best way to make that dynamic in order for me to win it,'" said Clarke.

But there's a new dynamic in City Councilwoman Yvette Clarke's candidacy: the recent disclosure that she never graduated from college, despite her previous statements to the contrary.

I have completed all of the requisite courses that I needed to complete at Oberlin College, and I had some electives back twenty years ago that I though I had completed, which would have made my degree complete. And you know, it was a mistake," said Clarke.

"It seems very messy," said Owens. "I'm not going to say that Yvette did this deliberately, but I certainly think that it is a question that's got to be on voters' minds. You know, 'what school did you attend?' What did you achieve? What's going on?'"

Beyond the controversies, the candidates did discuss the issues. They all agreed that affordable housing, immigration and healthcare are the most pressing issues facing the district, but when the proposed Atlantic Yards development Project came up, Owens was the fiercest critic. Yassky said the buildings proposed were too large, while Clarke and Andrews supported the plan.

Andrews was on the defensive when asked about his relationship with convicted former Brooklyn Democratic Boss Clarence Norman, choosing to deflect the question.

What about Clarence Norman? My name is Carl Andrews," he said. "I have a record that I can defend, a record of service for 27 years."

And with less than three weeks to go before the primary, all four candidates will be defending their records before the voters go to the polls.

- Molly Kroon
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