Should Espaillat Stop Running for Congress? ‘Hell No,’ Says Rangel

State Senator Adriano Espaillat. (Screengrab: NY1)

State Senator Adriano Espaillat with Congressman Charles Rangel. (Screengrab: NY1)

Should State Senator Adriano Espaillat stop trying to run for Congress? Congressman Charles Rangel, his bitter rival, doesn’t think so.

“Oh hell no,” Mr. Rangel told the Observer today. “I just hope that he recognizes that he has to acknowledge that he’s not running for the Senate.”

“He’s been raising money for the Congress and then he runs back and runs for the Senate,” Mr. Rangel, a Harlem Democrat, continued. “There’s several candidates, at least one that I know of, that’s running for the State Senate because [they] want to serve in the State Senate.”

Mr. Espaillat, a fellow Democrat, challenged Mr. Rangel in 2012 and 2014, coming up short both times. He said last week he will run a third time.

Mr. Rangel, a member of Congress since 1971, has said he will retire at the end of 2016, opening up the upper Manhattan and Bronx-based district for the first time in many decades.

Mr. Rangel has not yet endorsed a candidate to replace him, pointing instead to the one mythical Democrat who he hopes can unite the many races and nationalities of the 13th Congressional District, including a majority Latino population and a traditionally powerful African-American bloc.

Mr. Rangel has tweaked Mr. Espaillat before for taking advantage of a convoluted election calendar. Congressional primaries were moved to June several years ago but state legislative races are still in September, allowing state lawmakers to run for Congress without giving up their seats.

In Mr. Espaillat’s two campaigns, he often played coy, promising his focus was soley on going to Washington. But after each loss, he quickly turned around and sought re-election.

“I’m in it to win it,” Mr. Espaillat said today.

The crowded field for next year’s primary promises that Mr. Espaillat won’t be alone in deliberating on which offices to run for. Two state lawmakers, Assemblyman Keith Wright and State Senator Bill Perkins, are competing against Mr. Espaillat. Neither has said yet if they would go back to Albany if they lost.

Mr. Rangel implied he wouldn’t be too crestfallen if Mr. Espaillat was ultimately able to replace him.

“Disappointed? I’m a politician,” he said, his voice trailing off.