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Rangel Campaigns in Bronx, Skips Debate

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The mudslinging continued Friday in a tough Democratic primary battle, as Rep. Charles Rangel and state Senator Adriano Espaillat were sparring over a newer portion of the district in the Bronx. NY1's Courtney Gross filed the following report.

East Harlem is a neighborhood Rep. Charles Rangel knows well. He has represented it since 1971.

"We won this El Barrio before," Rangel said. "I have no reason to believe that we won't win it even bigger this time."

There is other, less familiar territory that presents a much bigger challenge: the Bronx.

Rangel was a no-show for a debate there on Friday afternoon. An empty chair was placed on stage instead.

"In a borough that insists on respect and consideration, Congressman Rangel has afforded none in this case," said Gary Axelbank, host of BronxTalk.

His campaign said there were scheduling conflicts.

"I did not know they were having the debate today," Rangel said.

"He doesn't care about the Bronx," said state Senator Adriano Espaillat, one of Rangel's primary challengers. "He wasn't here during the two years he never came to this program."

"To not show up to a conversation about a portion of his district that already feels neglected, that already feels underserved, I think is tragic," said the Rev. Michael Walrond, one of Rangel's primary challengers.

Just an hour before his primary challengers sat down, Rangel was merely a mile away at a breakfast with members of the Bronx clergy. He made it clear that the borough was not necessarily in his favor.

"I have never really confronted a political situation as rough as it is in the Bronx," he said.

The Bronx party establishment has backed his major rival, Espaillat.

"I promise that on day one, we'll have an office open right here in the Bronx," Espaillat said.

The Bronx makes up about one-fifth of the district, so in a tight race, it could end up being crucial.

Many expect a nail-biter. Campaign finance filings show that Rangel spent nearly $125,000 more than Espaillat from April to June. He raised more than $305,000 versus Espaillat's $185,000.

On Friday, that confidence was showing.

"The reception has been absolutely terrific," Rangel said.

At least in Harlem.

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