Rangel Pushes Back Against Espaillat’s Economic Criticisms

Charlie Rangel.  (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

Congressman Charlie Rangel. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

A day after State Senator Adriano Espaillat knocked Congressman Charlie Rangel’s economic policies, Mr. Rangel fired back against his top rival.

At an unrelated press conference today, Mr. Rangel answered Mr. Espaillat’s criticisms of the Upper Manhattan Empowerment Zone, one of Mr. Rangel’s hallmark initiatives, and raised doubts about Mr. Espaillat’s own record.

“Well I don’t know how much staff he has, but the staff ought to check and see what the empowerment zone has done throughout our community,” Mr. Rangel told the Observer. “I think it ought to be compared to how many jobs did he ever think about bringing to our community.”

As Mr. Espaillat unveiled his own economic plan yesterday, Mr. Espaillat knocked UMEZ, arguing it catered to wealthy big box stores while neglecting small business owners, perpetuating poverty in the zone.

When pressed by the Observer to comment further on Mr. Espaillat’s criticism of UMEZ, Mr. Rangel was not amused. “I can’t see how I can respond to that. There is nothing based in fact. We’ve created tens of thousands of jobs; most of them have been small business. One reporter says why don’t you name them, I say it’s public record. Some of them are the finest restaurants that we have, the finest retail stores.”

Mr. Rangel further charged that Mr. Espaillat couldn’t really be criticized because “there is absolutely nothing there to attack,” arguing that his legislative record is all-but-nonexistent.

“I’ve thought long and hard about his 18 years in the state legislature and I can’t find anything to complain about because half the time he wasn’t there,” Mr. Rangel said. “And you can’t complain if someone is not doing damage, and he is staying at home or wherever he is staying.”

Mr. Espaillat bashed Mr. Rangel’s record since Congress censured him for ethical violations several years ago.

“While Congressman Rangel has passed only one bill since his censure in 2010, Adriano has been a more productive member of the Senate Democratic Caucus–even while they’ve been in the minority,” said Chelsea Connor, a spokeswoman for Mr. Espaillat.

“Throughout his career, he has passed over 70 pieces of legislation, including legislation that gave in-state tuition to the children of undocumented immigrants, helped unionize over 30,000 day care workers–largely women and people of color–to get the better wages, and protected rent regulations keeping over 2 million New Yorkers in their homes,” she added.

Also running in the race are Pastor Mike Walrond and Bronx activist Yolanda Garcia.

Updated with comment from Mr. Espaillat’s campaign.