The number of Hispanic voters now in Rep. Charles Rangel’s district came to the forefront of the congressman’s latest debate with his challengers state Sen. Adriano Espaillat and Rev. Michael Walrond. The incumbent repeatedly suggested Mr. Espaillat is only running because redistricting in 2012 brought thousands of Dominican and other constituents from the northwest Bronx.
“What the heck has he done besides saying he’s a Dominican?” Mr. Rangel said during a discussion about the minimum wage.
“It really saddens me that the congressman has to stoop and lower himself to these types of unfounded attacks,” Mr. Espaillat replied.
With the primary vote, scheduled for Tuesday, June 24, just around the corner, the third debate between the Democratic candidates was the most heated session so far. Throughout the campaign, Mr. Rangel has taken a confrontational tone with his challengers, and the latest debate saw the 22-term congressman bring up race more explicitly than at any other time this year.
“He wants to be the Jackie Robinson of the Dominicans in the Congress,” Mr. Rangel said of Mr. Espaillat. “But the fact is, Jackie Robinson was a star before he reached the major leagues, and he’s not a Jackie Robinson.”
“This is not about one community against each other,” retorted Mr. Espaillat. “And you trying to frame the debate in this fashion is a disservice to your constituency and to this debate.”
The senator went on to call for Mr. Rangel to apologize. Instead, the congressman brought up a 2012 pro-Espaillat mailing which, according to Mr. Rangel, suggested Latinos who did not support the senator were “traitors.”
“Say something public about a congressman has to represent all parts of the district, and not just the one that his background’s from,” the incumbent said.