Charlie Rangel’s Last Battle?

by Christine Sisto
The long-time Democratic incumbent may lose his seat.

One of the toughest battles of Representative Charles Rangel’s political life is coming to an end. On Tuesday, the veteran New York congressman will face a four-way Democratic primary. His main opponent is State Senator Adriano Espaillat, who lost to Rangel in 2012 by only 1,086 votes

The historically African-American 13th district has elected Rangel since 1971, but the racial demographics have recently shifted. Over 413,000 residents in the district now identify as Hispanic or Latino versus the 230,000 who identify as African-American. The most recent Siena poll indicated that Rangel was ahead by 13 points, but the Dominican-born Espaillat may still pull out a win.

Both Democrats made multiple campaign stops on Monday. Two were a block away from each other and were held 20 minutes apart. Espaillat held a press conference in front of PS 189 across from the Harlem River Park, an area which overlaps with the district of Councilman Ydanis Rodriguez, who was there to support Espaillat. “Charlie, it’s time for you to go,” the councilman declared.

If Rangel was nervous about the primary tomorrow, he did not show it. After double-parking his car, he waved members of the press over one block to a press conference, where he received the endorsement of the New York Alliance of Independent Drivers, smiling from ear to ear the whole time and calling them the “heartbeat of New York City.” He was surrounded by green “boro taxis” and their drivers, most of them Spanish-speaking. Rangel spoke to them through a Spanish translator.

Espaillat’s campaign manager, Jesse Campoamor, stood a foot away from Rangel, and when the congressman noticed him he asked Campoamor to join him, but the latter walked away sheepishly.

Councilman Rodriguez then reappeared to berate Rangel for supporting the cab drivers on the same day that Mayor Bill de Blasio had signed a series of traffic bills designed to reduce injuries and deaths, called “Vision Zero,” into law. The Alliance for Independent Drivers opposes Vision Zero. Rangel extended his hand to the councilman and they shook begrudgingly.

In response to the the councilman’s protest, the cab drivers’ chants of “Rangel” changed to “ASOTINY,” which stands for the Alliance’s name in Spanish, in an attempt to down out the councilman’s criticisms. A few of Rangel’s supporters charged at Rodriguez, but no blows were exchanged.

Before he left, Rangel took a parting shot at Republicans, saying that the Tea Party is growing and the “Republican party is on the road to self-destruction.” 

— Christine Sisto is an editorial associate at National Review Online.