Espaillat for Congress

There are few spectacles less edifying than those of aging politicians clinging to office long past their prime. The sad case of former Brooklyn District Attorney Charles (Joe) Hynes is only the most recent example of an elected official who convinced himself that the public simply could not get by without his services. Not only did Mr. Hynes suffer an ignominious and well-deserved defeat last year, but he now faces the possibility of criminal charges relating to his use of campaign funds.

Mr. Hynes, 79, had served as Brooklyn D.A. since 1990. Had he retired after, say, three terms, he would have left as a conquering hero. Instead, he hung on, and on, and on, and now may have to defend himself in a court of law.

Harlem Congressman Charles Rangel has been around even longer than Mr. Hynes—and has faced a bit of ethical bother himself, although he managed to survive. First elected to Congress in 1970, the 84-year-old Mr. Rangel is now seeking what he says will be one final two-year term.

It is one term too many. With all due respect for Mr. Rangel’s service, the Observer endorses his Democratic challenger, State Senator Adriano Espaillat, in next week’s primary election.

The city and the district Mr. Rangel represents have changed dramatically, but the congressman has not. He remains very much a product of the old Harlem machine that produced David Dinkins, Basil Paterson and Percy Sutton. The four of them and their mentor, Raymond Jones, were pivotal figures in post-World War II New York as the city’s African-American population rightly demanded a greater say in government and politics.

That was a long time ago. Today, the 13th Congressional District includes tens of thousands of Dominican voters. Mr. Rangel has shown few signs that he understands the issues that his new constituents face. Mr. Espaillat, on the other hand, is a native of the Dominican Republic.

Mr. Rangel has failed to articulate a reason he has earned reelection, at times displaying irritation at the indignity of even having to ask people for their vote after 44 years in Congress. In place of vision, he has instead relied on the old saw that his long tenure will allow him to bring home valuable perks. Mr. Rangel’s campaign has been a disappointment, particularly when he charged that his opponent wanted to be “the Jackie Robinson of the Dominicans in Congress.”

Mr. Espaillat would bring new energy and ideas to the people of the 13th Congressional District. The Observer urges primary voters to choose Mr. Espaillat on June 24.