Conventional wisdom says that although Clyde Williams lacks the money and organization to win, his entry into the race and his ability to win gain some traction is detrimental to Charlie Rangel’s re-election chances because Williams will split the African-American and Harlem vote, and allow Rangel’s main opponent, Adriano Espaillat, to lock up the Hispanic vote.
Not withstanding the fact that Rangel does have his fair share of Dominican supporters (Washington Heights political legend Maria Luna is on Team Rangel), the idea that a Harlem voter that was initially considering Rangel over Espaillat, but will now switch his/her vote to Williams is far-fetched. Even with new district lines, this race is still about whether or not Charlie Rangel deserves to be sent back to Congress, and anyone who takes time to cast a vote for Clyde Williams, likely wasn’t going to vote for Rangel anyway.
Either these voters would have cast their protest vote for Espaillat had Clyde Williams not been in the race, or would not have voted at all. Evidence of this could be seen in the decisions by the Times and Daily News editorial boards. In their endorsements for Clyde Williams, both papers made clear that they thought it was time for Rangel to retire, and the Times even called Espaillat a “vigorous advocate.” Just as I think it’s reasonable to imagine those endorsements going to Espaillat had Clyde Williams not been in the race, it’s reasonable to imagine anyone voting for Clyde Williams on Tuesday to be more of a potential Espaillat vote over a Rangel vote.
Meanwhile, another local political operative disagrees, and sees a path forward for Espaillat:
The last minute boost that Williams has gotten in the press works to serve Espaillat. Williams is going to draw from the more affluent side of Rangel’s base in Harlem, but hasn’t campaigned hard enough north of 159th to be able to grab the white voters west of Broadway who Espaillat will be able to hold on to. I think if Espaillat can manage his GOTV operation well (which is a big if), he’ll be able to run right up the middle maintaining his Washington Heights/Inwood base, and grabbing the Dominicans in the West Bronx who still have close ties to the Heights.