Espaillat vs. Rangel Inches Closer to Reality
By Andrew J. Hawkins
When the state Legislature was battling over redistricting lines earlier this month, State Sen. Adriano Espaillat, who represents parts of the Upper West Side and Northern Manhattan, was assuring reporters that he wasn’t planning to jump into a congressional race. Now it looks like he’s changed his tune.
Since petitioning began two weeks ago, Espaillat has already collected enough signatures to qualify for the ballot in the June primary contest against long-serving Rep. Charlie Rangel, his spokesman said last Tuesday.
“There is tremendous enthusiasm for Senator Espaillat’s candidacy, which is demonstrated by the fact that he’s already surpassed the number of signatures necessary to get on the ballot,” said spokesman Ibrahim Khan.
Khan said that the campaign would continue to collect signatures in anticipation of ballot challenges. He estimated that 35-50 volunteers were out in the newly drawn 13th congressional district collecting petitions for the senator.
Rangel has said repeatedly in the past few weeks that he intends to run for re-election. The congressman was recently slapped with a $23,000 fine from the Federal Elections Commission for running his re-election campaign out of his rent-stabilized apartment. He has also reportedly been recovering from back surgery, which has kept him away from Washington and out of the public eye.
Espaillat has yet to officially announce his candidacy, but a post-redistricting increase in the district’s Latino population, as well as his option to run for re-election to the State Senate if he loses the June congressional primary, all but assure that he’ll eventually jump in the race.
But Rangel is hardly down for the count. He scored his first political club endorsement last week and has been endorsed for re-election by Queens Democratic Party boss Rep. Joseph Crowley and State Sen. Ruben Diaz Sr.
In response to rumors floating around the political and media worlds that Rangel plans to win the seat and then retire in order to pave the way in a special election for his designated successor, Assemblyman Keith Wright, Rangel’s spokesman, Bob Liff, released a statement explicitly denying such motivations on behalf of the congressman.
“I am not in this race so I could politically manipulate the system. The constituents I have long served know, and those who I now seek to represent will learn, that I am a straight talker. Any rumors that say I’m not going to serve out a full term are false,” Rangel said in the statement.
“Again, I am absolutely running for re-election. I intend to serve my entire term. There is no wiggle room.”
Wright, the chair of the Manhattan Democratic Party, is overseeing Rangel’s petition gathering. He told City & State that the process was going “extremely well” and that he expected the congressman to have “quadruple the number” needed to qualify for the ballot. As for Espaillat’s challenge, Wright offered his best of luck.
“Let me just say this: Obviously he thinks he has a good chance of winning, and good luck to him,” Wright said. “That’s all I’m going to say.”
The race is setting up a potential clash between Harlem’s dwindling African American population and its growing Dominican one. If elected, Espaillat would be the first Dominican-American member of Congress from New York.
This story first appeared on the City & State website at cityandstateny.com.
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