Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries, running to replace Congressman Ed Towns as the representative for the newly redrawn 8th Congressional District, visited the Manhattan Beach Community Group last week to introduce himself and discuss his stance on the issues expected to play a key role in this year’s election.

Jeffries talked about Israel, the economy and restoring trust in government, while also touting his background in both the public and private sectors. He also worked in mention of a handful of local issues, including waterfront issues, transportation and safety.

“One of the things that I’ve found all across this congressional district is that there are a lot of things that unite folks,” Jeffries told the crowd about the newly redrawn district, which will span across neighborhoods from Downtown Brooklyn to Crown Heights, to East New York to Mill Basin, to Manhattan Beach and Brighton Beach. “It’s a wonderfully diverse district, but … people want good schools, people want safe streets, people want a strong economy for all. Those are the issues that I really hope to work on if I had the privilege of representing you down in Washington.”

The race kicked off after current Congressman Ed Towns announced that he will not seek reelection this year. Vying for the Democratic ticket are City Councilman Charles Barron, a controversial figure with a strong following in his East New York, Brownsville, East Flatbush, and Canarsie base, and Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries, who has won the endorsement of many of our local elected, who represents Fort Greene, Clinton Hill and Crown Heights in the Assembly. The primary is set for June 26.

Answering a question from the audience, Jeffries said his stance on Israel mirrors that of his would-be predecessors Anthony Weiner and Bob Turner.

“The reality is Israel lives in a very tough neighborhood,” he said. “You can’t really negotiate with someone who doesn’t recognize your legitimacy as a negotiating party. If we’re going to move the peace process forward, then, of course, the other side that sits at the table has to be willing to recongize Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state.”

He added that a nuclear Iran is a risk for the whole world, and said the United States must support Israel if they deem a strike is necessary.

On a question about national debt and the current state of the economy, Jeffries noted that much of the pressure on the system comes from the fact that the United States entered into two wars while at the same time a restructuring of the tax code reduced the government’s revenues.

Jeffries also noted that Social Security, often blamed by Republicans as overburdening the national financial system, is fiscally sound for the time being.

“The attacks on Social Security are misplaced,” he said, noting that the current structure should remain solvent for the next 20 years. However, legislators need to examine ways to keep it going beyond that, he said. “[The stability of the system beyond 20 years is] a legitimate question that has to be asked that we should look at responsibly. I won’t approach it with any particular ideological bend.”

Manhattan Beach Community Group President Ira Zalcman pointed out that the community has had a crisis of leadership, seeing elected official after elected official resign in disgrace. He asked how Jeffries, as congressman, would restore the community’s faith in its leaders.

“There were folks who wondered why, when I was developing a pretty significant career in law, why in the world would I want to give that up to go to Albany, which people characterize as a swamp of dysfunction,” Jeffries said. “What drove me was a belief that if you leave government to the lowest common denominator, then you’re going to get what you deserve as it relates to who’s in office, the dysfunction, the corruption.”

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