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Decision Day: Voters Go To The Polls June 24

Stephon Johnson | 6/18/2014, 9:35 p.m.
Rep. Charlie Rangel, state Sen. Adriano Espaillat and pastor Michael Walrond Jr. Photo by Bill Moore

Many political campaigns can seem like old episodes of CNN’s “Crossfire,” with opponents vying for the biggest applause and loudest opinion. This year’s congressional primary campaign between Rep. Charlie Rangel, state Sen. Adriano Espaillat, pastor Michael Walrond Jr. and Yolanda Garcia has not been the exception to the rule.

But the “legacy” versus “new blood” argument will determine the future of Harlem—and all of upper Manhattan—politically. With recently redrawn districts adding some of the Bronx (with its high Latino population) to New York’s 13th Congressional District, Espaillat—who lost to Rangel in a primary bid back in 2012—saw this as his chance to finally take over the seat. But Rangel’s establishment status has made that road a bit tougher.

When the AmNews reached out to Rangel’s campaign, Charlie King, senior advisor to Rangel, had this to say about the end of the campaign and his boss’ prospects for re-election: “From Norwood to Inwood to Harlem, there is strong, grassroots support for Congressman Rangel’s re-election from the voters of the 13th Congressional District.

“We can’t afford to lose the experience and seniority Congressman Rangel brings to the table. The people know they can count on Charlie Rangel to be a champion in Washington, to continue fighting for good jobs, better wages and real immigration reform for the families of this district—and that’s why he is earning their support once again.”

When contacted for comment about his campaign, Espaillat’s representatives talked about the ethnic mosaic that’s upper Manhattan and how their candidate fits into the equation.

“Across every community in the district—white, African-American, Latino—voters are hungry for the change that Adriano Espaillat offers,” said Espaillat spokesperson Chelsea Connor. “He will bring a fresh voice to Congress and be a fighter for more affordable housing, strengthening locally owned small businesses and better immigration laws.”

Race and ethnicity have been one of the many topics of discussion during the candidates’ campaigns. Rangel, part of the African-American establishment in Harlem, is looking to maintain his spot in Congress, while Espaillat will become the first Dominican to hold congressional office if he wins. During a debate at ABC7 “Eyewitness News” studios, Rangel said, “I hope somewhere during this debate … [Espaillat] tries to share what the heck has he done besides saying he’s a Dominican.”

Rangel’s comments received a public reprimand from City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, who recently endorsed Espaillat in his run for Congress.

On the attack, Rangel’s campaign directed media outlets to a mailer that it believed came from Espaillat’s campaign. The mailer was delivered to potential voters and accused former state Assemblyman Guillermo Linares of being a “traitor” to Dominicans by siding with Rangel. The incumbent’s campaign gathered up condemnations of Espaillat from other Dominican officials, including Luis Eludis Perez, former consul general of the Dominican Republic, who said, “Instead of attacking Congressman Rangel, who has always been a champion for the Dominican community, Mr. Espaillat should take responsibility for his own divisive actions. It’s time to stop playing the blame game and do what’s right for all of our communities.”