If Rep. Charlie Rangel loses to state Sen. Adriano Espaillat in today's primary election, people will blame three things: his waning influence in Washington after the House censured him in 2010, the changing demographics of his district, and the fact his 44 years in office was a good — and long — run.
Rangel, a Korean War veteran and founding member of the Congressional Black Caucus, has served 22 terms in office and is seeking a 23rd in Tuesday's primary. A NY1/Siena College poll conducted June 14-18 showed Rangel 13 points ahead of his challenger. But as David Brat's victory showed earlier this month, anyone can get Cantor'd. In 2012 Rangel only won by about 1,100 votes. Now Espaillat is better organized and better known, and the district's Hispanic majority still works in his favor. The NY1/Siena poll showed that a majority of Hispanic voters support the senator, who would be the first Dominican American congressman if elected.
Espaillat also won endorsements from a few Rangel defectors. As Politico noted, New York City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, City Comptroller Scott Stringer and Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. are all supporting him, after backing Rangel in 2012. Rangel was only just endorsed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo this weekend, and Mayor Bill de Blasio declined to endorse anyone, even though he worked as Rangel's campaign manager in 1994 (Rangel endorsed his opponent, Bill Thompson, in last year's election).
On Saturday Espaillat and his supporters marched through Harlem, while the senator told followers that Rangel has been in office for "far too long, far too long," according to Politico. “We have a new vision, and we’re going to win next Tuesday, June 24.”
That same day, Rangel danced his way into an event at the Harlem Shake burger restaurant at the corner of 124th and Lenox Avenue (one of his nicknames is "The Lion of Lenox"). Uncle Charlie's Flash Mob Dance Party, the advertised name of the event, wasn't a flash mob, and only barely counted as a dance party. The front of the stage was crowded by journalists from CNN, WNYC, Capital New York and PIC10 news. It was mainly a last chance to say that he's more qualified than his opponents, and still young (at heart).
"Some people have been ridiculing me for my age, especially since I can't remember how old I am," he said. "But what my answer is to them, if you have a good old horse that kept winning the races, why in the world would you want to bring in a colt that doesn't even know where the track is?"
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.
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