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Potential Successor Has Ties to Norman

NY Times

A group of Brooklyn Democrats will gather in Crown Heights this weekend to select their party’s nominee to fill the Assembly seat formerly held by Clarence Norman Jr., the Brooklyn Democratic leader who had to leave the State Legislature because of a felony conviction.

And the person they are expected to nominate, several Democratic officials said, is someone with ties to Mr. Norman: the Rev. Karim Camara, 34, the executive pastor of the First Baptist Church of Crown Heights, the large congregation led by Mr. Norman’s father, Clarence Norman Sr. Mr. Camara also once worked part time as community liaison in the Assembly district office of the younger Mr. Norman.

Two weeks ago, Mr. Norman was found guilty of soliciting illegal campaign contributions. His conviction on various felony counts meant that he had to vacate his Assembly seat immediately, as well as his positions as a member of the State Democratic Committee and borough Democratic leader.

Some Democrats in the 43rd Assembly District, anchored in Crown Heights, have already complained about the prospect of Mr. Camara’s nomination, contending that he was chosen by a tainted party boss to succeed him.

“His association with the First Baptist Church of Crown Heights makes him part of the Clarence Norman organization,” said Geoffrey A. Davis, the chairman of a nonprofit foundation that conducts youth programs.

Mr. Davis, the brother of James E. Davis, the slain city councilman, said he plans to pursue the nomination of the Working Families Party and to run for the seat in the November election. If he is not successful, he said, he will run in next year’s Democratic primary for the Assembly seat.

Because of the timing of the vacancy, there are no primaries. Committees from political parties that have ballot lines select candidates for the special election.

In an interview yesterday, Mr. Camara said that he is beholden to no one politically and that he had not been asked to run by either Mr. Norman or by his father. He said it is unfair to be criticized merely because he is a leader of the same church where Mr. Norman worships and where his father is pastor.

“I am my own independent person with my own vision for this Assembly district,” said Mr. Camara, who is also the fund-raising director for the Cush Campus Schools, a private elementary and middle school in Brooklyn. “I am not running to provide any continuation for the former administration.”

He added that he has a record of community service in Crown Heights and in Brooklyn. “I’ll match my record of service in this community with the record of anyone else,” Mr. Camara said.

Last week, Gov. George E. Pataki set the date, Nov. 8, for the special election to fill the vacancy created by Mr. Norman’s conviction.

The meeting to determine a successor for another of Mr. Norman’s positions, Brooklyn Democratic Party leader, was postponed until next Thursday. Assemblyman Vito J. Lopez has said he has secured the commitments from a majority of the 41-member Kings County Democratic Committee, which will ultimately make the selection.