Rev. Mike Walrond will officially kick off his run for Congress tomorrow evening, potentially complicating Congressman Charlie Rangel’s path to re-election.
Mr. Walrond, a pastor at a large Harlem church and the head of the clergy division at Rev. Al Sharpton’s National Action Network, will face Mr. Rangel and most likely State Senator Adriano Espaillat, who has been gearing up for a rematch after nearly knocking off the veteran congressman in 2012.
Mr. Walrond will kick off his race at MIST Harlem, an uptown restaurant known for hosting political events, according to a release from his campaign.
Mr. Walrond, who did not immediately respond to a request for comment, has already encountered some controversy while gearing up for his run. According to contribution records and an FEC statement, Mr. Walrond lives in New Jersey–not New York, Capital Tonight reported earlier this month. Mr. Walrond told the show he was planning a move into the district.
Insiders say that, as another black candidate, Mr. Walrond could pull votes away from Mr. Rangel, potentially aiding Mr. Espaillat, a Latino candidate, in a district that includes large Hispanic populations in both Manhattan and the Bronx. Mr. Walrond may also enjoy another advantage: Unlike many establishment figures in Harlem, he endorsed now-Mayor Bill de Blasio during the Democratic primary and has a strong relationship with the mayor, sources say.
Another prominent clergyman, Rev. Calvin Butts, is also eying a run for the seat. Mr. Espaillat has not officially declared his candidacy but may do so as early as next month, sources say.
Mr. Rangel, who has represented the district since 1971, declared through a spokesperson that he is still the best pol for the district.
“The Congressman frequently quips that he doesn’t buy green bananas at his age,” the spokesperson said. “One thing that’s abundantly clear is that he is tireless when it comes to working for the district and is the best candidate for 2014.”
Updated with additional comment from Mr. Rangel’s campaign.