Mark-Viverito and Espaillat Make Last Minute Campaign Push in East Harlem

State Senator Adriano Espaillat with Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito. (Photo: Ross Barkan)

State Senator Adriano Espaillat with Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito. (Photo: Ross Barkan)

The Espaillat for Congress sign apparently had to go.

“TWU! TWU! TWU!” State Senator Adriano Espaillat, the Democratic insurgent trying once more to unseat Congressman Charlie Rangel, cried this afternoon in East Harlem. There was a smile on his face. “C’mon, man,” he groaned.

A transportation worker from the union that had endorsed his bid against Mr. Rangel, the Transportation Workers Union, had just ordered that a large campaign sign be shed from the entrance to the 4, 5, and 6 trains at 116th Street and Lexington Avenue. He did not explain why.

“It’s an election. You should really be allowed to have those up there,” grumbled Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, a prominent Espaillat surrogate who had made an unscheduled appearance to stump for Mr. Espaillat.

Still, Mr. Espaillat was in high spirits. After a packed day of last minute campaigning, he had taken off suit jacket to dish out campaign literature to the excited, disaffected and indifferent voters that trudged up the subway steps. Several campaign volunteers tried to corral voters as a local district leader barked “vote today, vote today, vote today” into a megaphone. One volunteer, more bitingly, told passerby to “send Charlie home.”

East Harlem is the heart of Ms. Mark-Viverito’s district and a crucial battleground in the upper Manhattan and Bronx-based district. Mr. Rangel won the heavily Latino neighborhood in 2012 but Mr. Espaillat, a bilingual Dominican-American, is counting on a surge of voters from the area to boost his bid in the Democratic primary today.

Campaign sources say turnout will be lower than in 2012, when Mr. Espaillat nearly knocked off Mr. Rangel. Mr. Espaillat bragged that his “base” election districts–north of 135th Street, north of 120th Street and the Bronx–were performing beyond his expectations, however.

“I think I’m fighting here to take East Harlem,” he added

For much of the campaign stop, Mr. Espaillat was alone with a volunteer. Ms. Mark-Viverito, who said she had stumped for Mr. Espaillat at several senior centers today, arrived later to help pull East Harlem voters to the polls.

“We have a particular numbers of voters we’re focused on which we believe will be the ones that will take him over the edge and I strongly believe he will get those votes,” Ms. Mark-Viverito said.

Mr. Espaillat, predictably, was beaming after Ms. Mark-Viverito showed up. She was one of many Democrats that endorsed Mr. Rangel two years ago.

“This woman is the strongest woman I’ve ever seen! Stronger than my grandmother that came here before I was born,” Mr. Espaillat said. “You should see her go up and down stairs. She upped my standards for campaigning.”