When Congressman Charlie Rangel whipped out his cell phone last night at a debate and began to chide his rivals in an imaginary conversation, State Senator Adriano Espaillat had one thought: this is wacky.
“Wacky, very wacky. I thought I had seen everything when I saw the Yogurt debate in Albany but, this tops it,” Mr. Espaillat told reporters at a press conference with the Transportation Workers Union in uptown Manhattan today.
“For him to take his phone and make like a joke—what is he going to do, karaoke next time?” asked Mr. Espaillat. “Our constituents don’t deserve that.”
Mr. Rangel’s cell phone tactic was the most colorful moment of an acrimonious debate last night between the top three candidates vying to represent uptown’s 13th Congressional District, which spans from Harlem through parts of the Bronx. In the debate, Mr. Rangel, who has been in office for four decades, mocked both Mr. Espaillat and Pastor Mike Walrond, a long-shot contender, for not measuring up to his tenure in Congress.
But Mr. Espaillat, who nearly beat Mr. Rangel two years ago and has been racking up a bevy of local establishment support including the TWU, was far from amused. He decried Mr. Rangel during the debate and further elaborated on his dissatisfaction today.
“That’s got one name: It’s called desperation. I won’t be subject to desperation,” fumed Mr. Espaillat, standing outside the Kingsbridge Bus Depot as trains thundered on an elevated track above the scrum. “I have a substantive record, I’m not gonna get up there and sing and dance because that’s not what I do. I want to have a substantive discussion about the issues.”
“If Charlie Rangel wants to do a karaoke next time, that’s up to him but frankly, I think it’s an embarrassment,” he added.
Mr. Rangel’s campaign mocked Mr. Espaillat’s complaints.
“Sounds like the only call Senator Espaillat is making is to the wambulance because no one is paying any attention to him after he lost the debate,” said James Freedland, a spokesman for Mr. Rangel.
Updated with comment from Mr. Rangel’s campaign.