Longtime Harlem Congressman Charles Rangel is hoping to hold on to his seat for one last term. But he faces perhaps his toughest re-election fight with the announcement today that state Sen. Adriano Espaillat will again challenge him for his seat and is already peeling off some of Rangel’s support. Bobby Cuza filed the following report.
State Sen. Adriano Espaillat has been here before. Having narrowly lost to Rep. Charles Rangel in a primary two years ago, he’s back again, hoping to finish the job.
“Yes I think it’s time for change,” Espaillat said at his announcement on Thursday.
The Dominican-born Espaillat officially announced his candidacy Thursday surrounded by other Upper Manhattan elected officials and other supporters who believe the 83-year-old Rangel’s time has come. He’s served in Congress since 1971.
“We have a new mayor and a new speaker of the City Council. And yes, people want to see change, they want to see new, fresh ideas that will lead us in the right direction,” said Espaillat.
In fact, new Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito could play a pivotal role in this race; previously a Rangel supporter, she’s now backing Espaillat, with the two planning to campaign together Friday. Other previous Rangel supporters, like the health-care workers union, have so far been non-committal.
Espaillat has demographics on his side, as the district – redrawn just two years ago – is majority Hispanic. But he sought to downplay that angle on Thursday, saying while ethnic pride has its place, he’s a coalition builder, and will speak to universal issues like housing and health care.
“They’re not Dominican issues. They’re not Puerto Rican issues. They’re not black or white or Asian issues. They impact the entire district,” said Espaillat.
As for Rangel, who’s already assembled a campaign team and begun announcing endorsements – including one from the plumbers union Thursday – he’s been anticipating Espaillat’s challenge, unlike 2012.
“Two years ago, I’d just got out of the hospital and did not expect an announcement. Now I’m fit, ready to go,” said Rangel.
The first time both men went toe-to-toe it came down to the wire. Rangel won the primary showdown after a recount.
Harlem pastor Michael Walrond, an ally of the Rev. Al Sharpton, is also running. The primary takes place just under four months from now, on June 24.