I remember a hostage situation which ended with the gunman surrendering for a Burger King Whopper with a shake and two extra orders of onion rings. But I have also seen kidnappers bring down the house on themselves, their hostages, and the rescuers. A cornered culprit can be pathetic or dangerous. Charles (Joe) Hynes is both.
It is pathetic for him to imagine that he can win on the Republican ticket. It can’t be done in Brooklyn which goes Democrat even when the rest of the city goes Republican. He got it right for one moment when he conceded defeat on primary night and promised to cooperate on a transition. But he undid it when he broke his word and announced he would campaign for votes on the Republican and Conservative lines.
Hynes justified reneging on his promise of a smooth transition by claiming that he was upset to learn that ex-con Clarence Norman was given a prominent role by Thompson’s campaign. Then he had to eat crow and his press spokesman, Jerry Schmetterer admitted, according to the Wall Street Journal “That the district attorney doesn’t have concrete evidence that Mr. Norman played a role in Mr. Thompson’s campaign.”
In fact, according to the Thompson campaign,
Hynes’ campaign manager is a convicted felon who not only served years in prison for assault and robbery, but is also a protégé of Clarence Norman.
Thompson’s campaign is referring to is Taharka Robinson, whose consulting firm, state election records show, was paid slightly more than $165,000 over the past 12 months by Mr. Hynes’s campaign.
Hynes insists he remains a Democrat. But the only, likely beneficiaries of his campaign are a few south-Brooklyn Republicans. According to reporter Will Bredderman,
His team said he [Hynes] has been in talks with GOP leadership about how continuing to campaign could provide a boost to Republican Council candidates like John Quaglione and David Storobin, who are seeking seats in Bay Ridge and Brighton Beach.
Meanwhile, Hynes is conducting a racially tinged campaign trying to portray Thompson as this boogey man whose associates are black criminals. Within his office, rumors are spreading that Thompson will be indicted on evidence the DA has of financial misconduct. If it were true Hynes would have unleashed the evidence before the primary. He is also spreading rumors in his office that most white ADAs will be forced out by Thompson.
Hynes somehow imagines he can energize the Republican electorate and peel off whites from the Democratic party. He may be able to peel off a few extra white votes by inflaming and exploiting racial tensions. But his southern Brooklyn strategy is doomed. It is true that the Republican party rode that strategy to national success after Lyndon Johnson passed civil rights legislation. But most voters were white, back then. Even the national Republican Party now realizes it has a problem because the percentage of non-white voters has increased and will eventually pass the midpoint. But in Brooklyn? Right now non-whites comprise almost two-thirds of the population. Moreover, the main Hasidic groups have endorsed Thompson in the November election. Many of Brooklyn’s whites in the hip neighborhoods on the west are strongly liberal. There is no viable, race-inflaming, southern strategy for winning a county-wide election in Brooklyn.
The most pathetic aspect is that Hynes had a chance to exit with dignity. Those closest to him, who cared about him, begged him not to break his primary-night promise. But a few Republicans like Martin Golden and Dennis Quirk convinced him he had a chance. They exploited the vanity of this declining man by offering him a little more glory on the campaign trail at the expense of his standing with many of his oldest friends and political allies.
For over a century the Republican Party had the Black vote as the party of Lincoln. But on the fiftieth anniversary of the March on Washington the only Republican on the stage was a statue. Hynes entered office as a hero to many African-Americans because he successfully prosecuted the racist hooligans in Howard Beach who chased Michael Griffith to his death. He is going to leave office despised by those who first elected him and cut off from his old political network.