One of the first things Michelle Rhee’s group, StudentsFirstNY, did upon launching in that state was approach Democratic Congressional candidate Hakeem Jeffries (NY-CD8) and offer him a six-figure, unregulated, third party donation to his campaign.
They probably thought Jeffries was an easy mark, given the positions he’s taken in the past urging that New York City open itself up to more charter schools in alignment with StudentsFirst’s pro-charter agenda. Jeffries’ opponent in the Democratic primary, city councilman Charles Barron, is much less in favor of the expansion of charters.
But in a rebuke that held at arm’s length not only Rhee, but the constellation of Mayor Bloomberg/charter promoter Eva Moskowitz/former Chancellor of NY Public Schools Joel Klein forces of privatization in New York City, Jeffries declared, “We did not seek it, do not want it and will win without it.”
Moreover, his campaign spokesperson added:
Spokeswoman Lupe Todd said, “We have worked for more than a year to raise the resources necessary to mount a successful campaign from people who want a fresh start in the nation’s capital. In this regard, the Jeffries campaign has raised more than $650,000 from more than 2,400 supporters. More than 60 percent of our contributions have come in increments of $100 or less. These efforts demonstrate the broad and widespread appeal of our campaign.”
“The Jeffries campaign does not believe that independent expenditures have a place in this race,” she continued.
In recent days, Jeffries has worked to reposition himself to match Barrons’ stronger anti-charter/pro-public schools stance. A mailer highlights Jeffries’ opposition to Cathie Black, the ill-starred successor to Klein as head of the nation’s largest school district; Black was forced out after it was clear her lack of experience in the education world combined with her brittle, haughty personality grated on education stakeholders.
With co-location of charters and existing public schools a minefield among Brooklyn parents, it’s no wonder Jeffries is having to moderate his previous eagerness to lift charter caps in New York City.
But Jeffries’ refusal of Rhee’s generous offer can’t help but fuel speculation: combined with Connecticut Governor Daniel Malloy’s recent refusal to appear with Rhee at a public rally for schools, could Michelle Rhee’s golden public relations touch be waning? Maybe, at least among Democratic candidates wary of her tarnished brand, toxic association with right-wing governors, and role as frontwoman for conservative education bills churned out by ALEC.