U.S. Rep. Yvette Clarke (D-Brownsville, Crown Heights, East Flatbush, Flatbush, Kensington, Midwood, Prospect Heights, Prospect Lefferts Gardens, Park Slope) will have to fight during the primaries for her seat in the U. S. House of Representatives less than two years after barely fending off a tough primary opponent. Unfortunately for Clarke, that opponent is running again.
Adem Bunkeddeko, a 31-year-old son of Ugandan refugees and a political activist, will join a growing field of candidates looking to unseat Clarke in New York Congressional District Nine. After losing to Clarke in the 2018 primaries by fewer than 2,000 votes, he still wants to take the place of an incumbent who he says does not pass any legislation in Congress.
Bunkeddeko said that the stakes are too high to have politicians not producing for their constituents. “I first ran against Ms. Clarke because she hadn’t passed a single piece of legislation in her 12 years in Congress, while our affordable housing and our schools declined,” Bunkeddeko said.
Clarke came close to losing to Bunkeddeko in the same year when current U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-Queens, Bronx) upset powerful Democrat Joe Crowley. Bunkeddeko still feels encouraged by what he views as a sea of change.
“Long-term incumbents like Ms. Clarke don’t get to view their elections as lifetime appointments anymore, and it really woke up a lot of voters to the fact that we’re not getting the representation we deserve, and we have a choice,” Bunkeddeko said.
Congress reflects the underrepresentation of historically vulnerable groups of people that is still seen in almost every corner of society. While Clarke helps to represent blacks, Bunkeddeko, in addition, represents children and families of refugees.
His parents left Uganda in the brink of war and made that leap of faith to the United States based on the American Dream. Bunkeddeko was born in Queens but being the child of refugees gives him more empathy and insight into immigration, refuge, asylum, and respecting cultural diversity.
The anti-immigrant and xenophobic rhetoric driven by the Republican party makes Bunkeddeko think of his parents. “It is heartbreaking and infuriating that people just like them, who are fleeing violence in their communities, are being held in cages, including at the facility that my dad went to.”
If Bunkeddeko wants to keep his promise of passing legislation like the Green New Deal, then he needs to figure out a way to deal with an opposition party that allegedly protects the president at all costs and routinely denies science and established fact. He supports impeachment and said that the blame goes beyond the president.
“The failures of the Republican Party are in some ways, worse than the failures of Donald Trump himself because without his enablers, he wouldn’t be able to get away with the things he’s done,” Bunkeddeko said. “Frankly, they all need to be held accountable.”
Clarke has called for the president’s impeachment since 2017 and said that the Ukraine scandal added more to the impeachment pile. What happens to the president’s legal situations if and when he leaves office is unknown, but Bunkeddeko believes the president is “a criminal and must be held accountable for his crimes.”
The primary for this congressional district that covers a swath of southern Brooklyn will be on June 23 of next year and so far includes other challengers like activist and lawyer Michael Hiller, Alexander Hubbard, and Isiah James.
Clarke raised over $360,000 so far in this cycle, but Bunkeddeko took in a respectable total of over $150,000, with most of that money coming from large donations and no money coming from political action committees.