Bill de Blasio Praises Charlie Rangel Challenger

Mike Walrond. (Photo: Walrond Campaign)

Mike Walrond. (Photo: Walrond Campaign)

Mayor Bill de Blasio this afternoon praised one of Congressman Charlie Rangel’s primary challengers, the Pastor Michael Walrond, but said it is too early to take sides in the race.

“I think the world of Pastor Walrond. He is a good friend,” Mr. de Blasio told Politicker when asked about his relationship with Mr. Walrond at an unrelated Harlem press conference.

“I have not talked to him since his announcement. I look forward to talking to him,” he added.

Mr. Walrond is a member of  the mayor’s transition committee and was an early de Blasio endorser in the mayor’s race when much of the Harlem political establishment, including Mr. Rangel, backed rival Democrat Bill Thompson. Mr. Rangel, who is seeking his 23rd term representing Upper Manhattan, is also expected to face State Senator Adriano Espaillat, who came close to unseating him in 2012.

But Mr. de Blasio today said it was too soon to get involved in Mr. Rangel’s race–while leaving open the possibility that he might actively take sides down the road.

“We will have longer conversations about the future with all the different players in this community going forward,” he said. “So just wanted to express my real respect for him, but haven’t really looked at the election up here. It’s not time to yet.”

Mr. Walrond, a pastor at the First Corinthian Baptist Church in Harlem, also serves on Mr. Sharpton’s National Action Network. Mr. Sharpton was credited by many for bolstering Mr. de Blasio’s candidacy during the heated primary, and the two appear to have forged a close bond since then. Multiple Sharpton associates have contributed to Mr. Walrond’s campaign, Capital New York reported earlier this week.

Mr. de Blasio’s wife, Chirlane McCray, recently hired a top Sharpton aide to serve as her highly-paid chief of staff, and Mr. de Blasio has made frequent appearances at National Action Network rallies and on Mr. Sharpton’s MSNBC show.

Aides for Mr. Rangel did not immediately respond to requests for comment.