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Democratic Politicians Concerned About Voter Turnout

After a rally for gubernatorial candidate Andrew Cuomo, local Democratic politicians expressed their concerns about the midterm elections.

U.S. Representative Yvette Clarke, whose district includes Prospect Heights, is in no danger of losing her seat. She is running unopposed, and even if she had a Republican opponent, he'd be unlikely to have much success in a district where nine out of 10 people voted for Barack Obama in 2008.

However, Clarke is still worried about the outcome of the Nov. 2 general election. That's why she and other area politicians came out for Attorney General and Democratic gubernatorial candidate Andrew Cuomo's rally in Downtown Brooklyn on Wednesday.

After the rally, Clarke said that, if the Democrats lose either the U.S. House of Representatives or the New York State Assembly, Republicans will be in a position to take credit for what her party has started.

"The economy is turning around," she said. "If you have the wrong people in place to claim victory, we will never see the fruits of our labor."

The rally, which featured former President Bill Clinton as well as Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz and Rochester Mayor Robert Duffy, who is running for lieutenant governor, was held at the New York City College of Technology.

Like Clarke, the speakers said it wasn't just important for Democrats to win elections on Tuesday. They said it is important to win decisively.

"If you want [Cuomo] to be effective, give him a whopping victory," said Clinton.

Whether Democrats are excited enough to deliver that "whopping victory" is another question, even in staunchly Democratic areas such as Prospect Heights.

"There's an enthusiasm gap," said New York City Councilwoman Letitia James, who was at the rally.

James, who represents Prospect Heights along with Clinton Hill, Fort Greene and Bedford-Stuyvesant, said that, despite the fact that the area had one of the highest turnouts not only in Brooklyn but throughout New York state in 2008, she is concerned that neighborhood residents won't make it to the polls.

Neither Republican gubernatorial candidate Carl Paladino's campaign nor representatives of the Kings County Republican Committee immediately responded for comment.

James and Clarke are not alone in their concerns. Political analysts and pollsters have been predicting a rough election for the Democratic Party for months.

At the rally, Cuomo stated bluntly that he doesn't buy those predictions.

"I say the models are wrong, especially in New York," Cuomo told the roaring crowd. "New York is going to make a statement, loud and clear."

However, Prospect Heights residents are uncertain about whether the district will make the statement Cuomo hopes it will.

"It's not a presidential election," said Duke Saunders, a real estate agent and resident of Prospect Heights.

Saunders said that, when there aren't major offices such as the presidency hanging in the balance, people's enthusiasm for the electoral process is naturally going to be dampened.

Historically, Saunders' observation appears to be accurate. According to the New York State Board of Elections, over 154,000 people in New York's 11th Congressional district, of which Prospect Heights is a part, voted in the 2004 elections. More than 230,000 residents of the district came out to vote in 2008.

However, during midterm elections, those figures drop dramatically. In 2006, less than 100,000 votes were cast in the district. In 1998, that figure fell below 85,000.

Those statistics paint a clear pattern of how voter interest waxes and wanes between Presidential and mid-term elections. Clarke, James and other local Democratic politicians are hoping that, come Tuesday, Prospect Heights and the rest of Central Brooklyn will break that pattern.

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