Mulgrew Says Espaillat Endorsement Decision ‘One of the Toughest Parts of the Job’

Michael Mulgrew today.

Michael Mulgrew today.

The president of the United Federation of Teachers is still a big fan of Congressman Charlie Rangel, even after his influential union turned its back on the dean of the city’s congressional delegation to endorse a top rival.

Mr. Mulgrew even hinted to the Observer today that his close relationship with Mr. Rangel may have been trumped by his union’s enthusiasm for State Senator Adriano Espaillat.

“We have a very strong relationship with Congressman Rangel but this is not just the president gets to decide, there were a group of delegates who felt strongly they wanted to endorse Adriano Espaillat and it was brought fourth in the delegate assembly and that is our process,” Mr. Mulgrew said at an unrelated education press conference. “The debate is our debate, which we do not share publicly, and that was our decision in the end.”

“We have a strong relationship with Congressman Rangel but there are a lot of folks, especially in Manhattan and the Bronx who’ve done a lot of work with Senator Espaillat and who felt very strongly to move forward in that direction,” Mr. Mulgrew added.

The UFT voted yesterday to flip their endorsement to Mr. Espaillat, who is running once more to unseat Mr. Rangel in the uptown Manhattan and Bronx-based seat. Like many other unions and elected officials, the teachers union backed Mr. Rangel two years ago when he barely fended off Mr. Espaillat.

But powerful pols in the city, like Comptroller Scott Stringer and Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, are now in Mr. Espaillat’s corner. The UFT endorsement could also foreshadow more labor support for Mr. Espaillat, sources say, particularly from pivotal unions like 32BJ and 1199 SEIU.

Mr. Mulgrew said the decision to not endorse Mr. Rangel, a lawmaker for four decades, was difficult.

“One of the toughest parts of the job are the political decisions that have to be made, especially in races because you have so many people who work with you,” Mr. Mulgrew said. “It is tough because there are a lot of good people.”