Yesterday was our first day in New York State Supreme Court in the case of Congressman Edolphus "Ed" Towns versus Kevin Powell. In court instead of on the streets where two Democratic Congressional candidates and their staffers belong just six weeks from the Tuesday, September 14th Democratic Primary Election. In court instead of at a candidate forum or debate discussing critical issues for Brooklyn's 10th Congressional district like jobs, small business development, educational reform, or how we can stem the tide of violence in huge chunks within our community.
Congressman Ed Towns is clearly hiding behind this lawsuit because it is abundantly clear he does not want to campaign this summer. Nor does he trust democracy, nor the very people he has been representing for 27 long years. If Mr. Towns did, then he would not be wasting taxpayers' money on a flimsy attempt at proving my campaign does not have enough signatures to be on the ballot.
But we do. Mr. Towns' own team, led by attorney Bernard Alter, admitted as much via their own evidence. Of our 8,200 or so petition signatures gathered, Mr. Alter submitted over 2,800 as valid, giving us 2.5 times what is required (1,250) to be on the ballot. This is a far cry from Mr. Towns going on record in the media yesterday saying our petitions were the "sloppiest" he had ever seen. If that were truly the case, and it is not, why would the Board of Elections approve of our petitions in the first place, and why did Mr. Alter say just the other day that Kevin Powell for Congress 2010 had "quite an operation."
It is abundantly clear that this very tedious counting of signatures is nothing more than a fishing expedition meant to delay democracy. And every hour that goes by wasting time on this lawsuit yet another person in Brooklyn's 10th Congressional district is looking for or losing a job. Or dying of AIDS or cancer. Or the victim of some violent crime. Imagine if we were using this time in court, Mr. Towns and I, to discuss conquering cancer through a reformed public school system. Or if we were engaged in critical conversations about oil spills, ethical issues in Congress, greening our communities, how we end these wars, or how we help our American soldiers coming home.
Moreover, as was stated on several occasions around New York City and on social networks like Facebook yesterday, Mr. Towns would not be hiding behind a lawsuit if he was not truly fearful of losing his seat. If Kevin Powell for Congress is not a threat to him, then why the general objection to our petitions at the Board of Elections two weeks ago, why this frivolous lawsuit, and why the hiring of Hank Sheinkopf to be your mouthpiece with just six weeks to go to election day?
Congressman Towns is not content with simply suing me. It appears mudslinging and character attacks, by any means necessary, have been added to the list. This became obvious yesterday when Mr. Sheinkopf took a question in the Daily News about the lawsuit and turned it into a personal attack on me.
But, first, let's call Mr. Sheinkopf what he really is: a forked-tongue political mercenary on ego-induced steroids. Just two years ago he and I met briefly at a public event, and subsequently had a telephone conversation about my 2008 race as it was beginning. Because I was a journalist in a previous chapter of my life, I remember the details well, and even took notes during our telephone conversation.
Both in person and via the phone call Mr. Sheinkopf was very animated and made it extremely clear how much he despised Congressman Towns, calling him, among other things, "a terrible public official who needed to be defeated." After hearing about his comments in the Monday edition of the Daily News, I decided to review my 2008 notes. I wound up working with another consulting firm that year, but was really struck by Mr. Sheinkopf's remarks, as he seemed to take it very personally that Mr. Towns was even still in office.
Fast forward to 2010 and here is Mr. Sheinkopf, serving as Congressman Ed Towns' spokesperson. That, my friends, is what is wrong with so much of American politics today. People do not stand on their core values. As a matter of fact, far too many do not have any moral or political values to begin with. They go in whatever direction the wind, the media spotlight, and the dollar bill blow them.
This is why my campaign for Congress is different. We are not only transparent and honest about everything, including the inner workings of our operation (on the daily I post campaign updates on Facebook, Twitter, and Linkedin because we want the American people to know how a campaign functions day to day), but we really also believe what we say. Or we do not say it at all.
But obviously not the case with Mr. Towns nor Mr. Sheinkopf. They want to hide behind lawsuits and attack politics as a way to deflect from the very serious issues our nation is confronting.
Hence, Mr. Sheinkopf telling me, in 2008, to "beat Ed Towns," to now tossing verbal grenades for Mr. Towns. Most predictable, of course, was Mr. Sheinkopf's comment yesterday about my "treatment" of women. At age 44 I am proud to say that not only am I one of the most outspoken critics of domestic and gender violence in New York City and throughout America, but I am also someone my community routinely comes to for advice on violence prevention, be it male on male or male on female.
And because I am both an ever-changing human being and a Christian, I believe deeply in redemption, as my own life is a testimony to that. Fact is that neither Mr. Towns, Mr. Sheinkopf, nor anyone else would even know the details of my past life if I had not put it all out there myself, over the course of my 24 years as a professional writer, both in magazines like Essence and Ms., and in much of my 10 books. So it is actually comical when Mr. Towns' camp makes statements about my past like they are revealing something new that in fact isn't new at all. I have been saying all these things myself since 1992:
And why have I been working, for nearly two decades, on issues like gender pay equity, abortion rights, and ending gender violence nationally and globally with folks as diverse as Gloria Steinem, Dr. bell hooks, Michael Kimmel, Byron Hurt, and a recently formed national coalition of gender violence prevention advocates, if I were what Mr. Towns and Mr. Sheinkopf are attacking me to be?
The sad reality is that Mr. Towns and his camp are desperate and they are resorting to the same shock and awe tactics they used in 2008. Or, better yet, they have a Tea Party mentality while disguised as Democrats. But this time the antics are not going to work. The people know the truth and the people are not going to accept old school mudslinging in the age of Obama. The people want action, now, not nastiness and attack politics from their leaders. Now if Mr. Towns, Mr. Sheinkopf, or any others are that serious about the concerns of women, I am really wondering why I have never seen either at any Domestic Workers United rallies over the past several years, at any domestic violence prevention breakfast meetings the past few years, nor at a major United Nations gathering on global gender violence I participated in. Only when Kevin Powell is running against Mr. Towns for Congress does the concern for the "treatment" of women arise. That is dishonest, and it is hypocritical.
Finally, be it hiding behind a lawsuit, or using the very serious issue of domestic violence as a political football, neither strategy is going to win in this election. Far too many people know the whole truth about who I am, what I do, and what I represent, and I counsel far too many women and girls who are DV survivors, including right here in Brooklyn's 10th Congressional district. So it is not right or amusing to see Mr. Towns' camp distort or outright lie about who I am just to win some votes.
An election is not solely about winning, it is also about the character of the person we are voting for, and how they and their team conduct themselves during a campaign. And for me winning is about telling the truth, the entire truth, about myself, about my opponent, about the state of all people in our Congressional district. I have absolutely nothing to hide, and neither should Congressman Ed Towns, if he is the man and the leader he claims to be.
So if Mr. Towns, an ordained minister, has a spiritual conscience at all, he would cease to be the Wizard of Oz and come from behind that curtain he's been hiding behind for 27 years, and actually let the people decide for themselves, in a democratic election he is trying to prevent, who the best person is for the job in these times.
Kevin Powell is a 2010 Democratic candidate for the United States House of Representatives in Brooklyn, New York. He can be reached at www.kevinpowell.net