Clarke Refuses To Debate Bunkeddeko

U.S. Rep. Yvette Clarke

A candidate who is challenging the incumbent for the 9th congressional district is claiming his opponent is dodging invitations to debate him before the June election.

Congressional candidate Adem Bunkeddeko

Adem Bunkeddeko, Democratic candidate in the 9th Congressional District, has challenged his opponent, U.S. Rep. Yvette Clarke (D-Crown Heights, Flatbush, East Flatbush, Brownsville, Midwood, Sheepshead Bay), to a series of debates ahead of the Democratic Primary Election on June 26th. Clarke’s office said the congresswoman is too busy with matters in Washington to participate in debates.

“Debates are an essential part of our democratic process. To that end, nearly two weeks ago I invited my opponent to a series of 3 debates across our district,” said Bunkeddeko.

“I believe voters deserve the opportunity to hear the difference between our respective visions, track records of service, and plans for issues impacting the community like affordable housing, criminal justice reform, immigration, and education,” said Bunkeddeko.

According to Jordan Jayson of the Bunkeddeko campaign, Bunkeddeko sent Clarke a letter through certified mail inviting her to a series of debates on Friday, May 4, and the campaign followed up with an email to her campaign manager. 

Jayson said Bunkeddeko offered to be as flexible as possible. He proposed any day within the weeks of May 21, June 4 and June 11, but said he’d be open to working within the Congresswoman’s schedule.

Congresswoman Yvette Clarke

At a rally in support of Clarke, supporters spoke of the lack of experience from Bunkeddeko as to the reason why Clarke will be victorious over him in the election. Some expressed their frustration that Clarke even has an opponent in the upcoming race.

“Your claim to fame can’t be you have ties to Wall Street Money. You have to have experience in this community,” said City Council Member Laurie Cumbo (D-Fort Greene, Clinton Hill, Prospect Heights, Crown Heights), the council’s Majority Leader.

But Bunkeddeko does have more than just ties to Wall Street money. A son of immigrants from war-torn Uganda, Bunkeddeko came from a very modest upbringing in Queens and Brooklyn, and went on to graduate with a master degree from Harvard in business.

However, rather than go into business, Bunkeddeko felt his calling was public service. After a brief stint in the banking world he went on to work at the Bedford Stuyvesant Restoration Corporation, the Empire State Development Corporation and most recently Brooklyn Community Services. He is also a past member Brooklyn’s Community Board 8.

Clarke comes from a relatively wealthy and very politically connected family. A daughter of Jamaican immigrants, her mother, Una Clarke, was a long-serving city council members, who Yvette succeeded after the mother was term-limited out of office.

A spokesperson for the Clarke campaign cited a lack of availability from the congresswoman due to the legislative schedule in Washington.

“With Congress in full session and especially during these extremely challenging and trying times for her constituents, Congresswoman Clarke is hard at work every day serving and fighting for the priorities of the people of the 9th Congressional district.  Given the very full calendar of the House of Representatives, scheduling does not presently permit,” said Clarke’s spokesperson Ronnie Oliva.

More from Around New York