A reader pointed us to a blog post from The Daily News’ Bronx guru Bob Kappstatter in which he describes a visit to Ruben Diaz’s church by Dominican Republic presidential hopeful Hipolito Mejia.
There, it appears as if Mr. Mejia, who previously served as president of the DR, joined the “Birther” crowd in questioning President Barack Obama’s birthplace.
“If Obama who came from Africa and grew up over there can become the President, why can’t any of you reach as high considering you have a more amusing [ethnic] mix than Obama’s?” he is quoted as saying.
Mr. Diaz howls with laughter, but as Mr. Kappstatter points out:
Local city and state electeds at the luncheon, they’ve so far apparently remained silent in condemning the remark – and the response from the politically powerful Diaz and the roomful of conservative Hispanic preachers – whose congregations represent a strong voting bloc.
That includes upper Manhattan state Sen. Adriano Espaillat, who’s challenging Rep. Charlie Rangel in a newly redrawn district taking in Espaillat’s district and a newly-added, heavily Dominican western swath of the Bronx.
Today we asked Mr. Espaillat about the incident, and he stepped away from the remarks made by the former president of his country of birth.
His spokesman, Ibrahim Khan, passed along the following:
“There’s simply no place in politics for this kind of a remark. Senator Espaillat strongly objects to such language. As an Obama delegate in the upcoming Democratic Convention, Senator Espaillat looks forward to campaigning for President Obama and helping him get reelected.”
The newly-drawn 13th district finds Mr. Espaillat running against the longtime incumbent Charlie Rangel. The district is a majority Latino, and if Mr. Espaillat wins, he will be the first Dominican in Congress. But it is still an uphill battle for him, and angering African-American voters will make it that much harder for him.