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Bronx Democratic Party Backs Espaillat's Congressional Run to Unseat Rangel

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The dean of New York's congressional delegation took a hit on Monday as the Bronx Democratic party decided to back his challenger, state Senator Adriano Espaillat, which means a number of high-profile elected officials are switching from Rangel to Espaillat. NY1's Courtney Gross filed the following report.

State Senator Adriano Espaillat strode up to Bronx Borough Hall Monday with the chairman of the borough's Democratic Party.

"This is about looking to the future, a new vision, a new energy," said Assemblyman Carl Heastie of the Bronx. "There's nothing against Congressman [Charles] Rangel."

Nothing against him, but the Bronx Democratic machine has decided to switch its support from Rangel to Espaillat.

"I promise you today that on day one, I'm going to open up a district office in the Bronx," Espaillat said.

The Bronx organization's backing brings another boost to the Albany lawmaker's campaign, capitalizing on a new portion of the district just added during redistricting in 2012, a slice that helped make the district majority Hispanic.

"This community is what I know like my hand and when they gave me parts of the Bronx, I was apprehensive until I found out that I even went to school in that part of the district at DeWitt Clinton High School when I was a kid," Rangel said.

"My opponent said that he was apprehensive about representing the Bronx," Espaillat said. "I'm not apprehensive about representing. I'm very proud to be here in the Bronx."

In response to Monday's announcement, the Rangel camp pointed to the congressman's list of supporters, including Sens. Schumer and Gillibrand.

Nonetheless, two years ago, many of the elected officials standing alongside Espaillat on Monday had been behind Rangel.

"We need the lion. We need a champion," Diaz said of Rangel in 2012.

"It was understood that that was his last hurrah, and since then, I've had conversations with Adriano," Diaz said on Monday. "We thought the congressman should have gone out with some dignity. He said it wasn't going to be it."

During their last faceoff, Espaillat only narrowly won the Bronx. His supporters are now looking to increase those margins.

"This time, I thought it was time," said Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz of the Bronx. "Espaillat, I know how he's been in Albany, and so I know he'll be an excellent congressman."

Rangel and Espaillat are sharing the ballot. The Rev. Michael Walrond and a new challenger, Yolanda Garcia, are vying for the seat as well.

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