Last year, 60th District State Assemblywomen Inez Barron vacated her seat after winning the election for the 42nd District city council seat. Her husband, Charles Barron, had held that seat for 12 years, and he had termed-out.
On Tuesday, Charles Barron won the election for the state assembly seat Inez Barron had vacated. The couple pulled off the seat swap.
See also our January feature story: The Barrons of East New York: Charles and Inez Barron Aren’t Your Traditional Power Couple
He defeated Chris Banks. It was no sure thing. Banks, an anti-poverty activist, was a formidable opponent. He had built a solid name recognition in east Brooklyn last year running against Inez Barron for Charles’s 42nd District city council seat.
But Charles Barron won the 60th District state assembly race with room to spare, topping Banks 62 percent to 38 percent in the Democratic Primary for this almost entirely Democratic district.
Much of Barron’s power stems from his ability to voice the anger of his constituents. As one local, Steve Watkins, told the Voice months ago, “He was definitely a voice for a certain change. He championed things, said things that other politicians were afraid to say: what the reality is for the neighborhood. And as long as New York has been New York, we’re still getting the short end of the stick. He was fighting against things like that.”
Barron was that voice in recent months, taking the loudest and angriest stance against the city and the NYPD after the chokehold death of Eric Garner. When militarized police officers cracked down hard on protesters in Ferguson Missouri, following the killing of Michael Brown, Barron declared, “Ferguson today, New York tomorrow.”
This is the Charles Barron most New Yorkers know, the one who makes the headlines.
But Barron’s power is not solely his rhetoric. Over his 12 years as East New York’s city councilman, the neighborhood has seen major improvements. Crime is decreasing, as it is across the city. There are three newly renovated parks and several new affordable hosing developments. A new mall opened.
As we detailed in our January profile of Barron:
From 2000 to 2010, according to U.S. Census data, East New York’s population grew by about 7,000. In 2000, 36 percent of residents earned more than $35,000 a year; by 2012, 48 percent did. Over that stretch, median home value increased from $169,200 to $427,600, and the number of homeowners rose by 18 percent — 3 percent higher than the overall rate in Brooklyn (where median home value rose to $562,600 from $229,200).
How much of this was because of Barron and how much was because of his predecessors and because of market forces–there’s much room for debate. But it happened under Barron’s watch, and that is what voters see.
Send story tips to the author, Albert Samaha