With tomorrow’s Democratic congressional primary approaching, State Senator Adriano Espaillat hit the streets near 168th Street and Broadway in Washington Heights to encourage voters to support him in his race to unseat veteran Congressman Charlie Rangel. Several reporters tagged along and Mr. Espaillat addressed Mr. Rangel’s accusation he’s circulating petitions to run for re-election to the State Senate if his congressional bid is unsuccessful.
Mr. Espaillat claimed he wasn’t making any effort to circulate petitions. He also said he didn’t know of anyone else petitioning on his behalf. Mr. Rangel brandished physical copies of alleged ballot petitions for Mr. Espaillat at their NY1 debate earlier this month, but Mr. Espaillat implied those documents were fakes.
“I don’t know, I haven’t seen anything,” Mr. Espaillat said of the alleged petitions. “Congressman Rangel whipped one out that looked like a fake subpoena. He wants to have people distracted.”
Mr. Espaillat’s chance to win the election is seen as being dependent on turnout in the newly drawn Upper Manhattan district’s Latino majority. If elected, he would be the first congressman of Dominican descent.
Mr. Rangel won the seat for four straight decades when it was primarily African American and centered in Harlem. Mr. Espaillat gave us his view of the battle lines and said he was “very confident” in his chances.
“Very confident, I think we’re going to have a swell of turnout here and I think we’re going to win the Bronx. We’re battling to win East Harlem and we’re doing the best we can with Harlem,” he said. “I think this is a major election and I think that I will come out victorious tomorrow.”
This election campaign is generally framed as a contest between Mr. Rangel’s longtime African American base and Mr. Espaillat’s Latino supporters. However, Mr. Espaillat insisted it “hasn’t been divisive.”
“I have African American supporters, the Congressman has Latino support. This has been a very fair fight and I think one that hasn’t pitted one community against each other,” Mr. Espaillat said.
In addition to the challenge from Mr. Espaillat, Mr. Rangel is facing a challenge on another front from former DNC political director Clyde Williams running from inside his Harlem stronghold.
Mr. Espaillat smiled broadly when The Politicker asked him about Mr. Williams. Though he insisted he wasn’t petitioning to return to Albany himself, he suggested Mr. Williams might have a bright future there.
“We love Clyde Williams. I think he brings great issues to the table, great ideas to the table,” said Mr. Espaillat. “We think that he’s got a promising future, maybe as an Assembly member.”