Club backs Espaillat, but some members stay mum
By Adam Wisnieski
The Ben Franklin Reform Democratic Club endorsed state Sen. Adriano Espaillat in a five-way race for Congressional District 13 on May 29, but two of the club’s three most influential members have not officially endorsed a candidate.
The club’s endorsement is the most significant one Mr. Espaillat has received from within the Bronx thus far. The club, which operates in the northwest Bronx, campaigned heavily for Mr. Espaillat when he ran for state Senate against Mark Levine in 2010 and was key in securing votes for Mr. Espaillat, especially in Riverdale. Mr. Espaillat later joined the Ben Franklin Club.
But there was some question over whether incumbent Rep. Charles Rangel’s efforts to curry the influential club’s favor would be successful — at least in getting it to abstain from an endorsement in the race.
The 41-year congressman showed up at the Ben Franklin Club’s annual dinner at Riverdale Temple on May 2 (where he jokingly tapped Mr. Espaillat on the chin with his fist) and again asked for the club’s support the day it voted to back Mr. Espaillat.
“I come here to ask for support. I did not know it would be a serious campaign,” Mr. Rangel said.
He said he realized Mr. Espaillat was the club’s “favorite son,” but said, “You’re not taking a chance with me. I’ve been there.”
But while the club chose to back Mr. Espaillat, Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz, who campaigned furiously for Mr. Espaillat during his state Senate campaign, has not endorsed a candidate in the high-profile race. Neither has Rep. Eliot Engel, who currently represents portions of the district that is now up for grabs.
Councilman Oliver Koppell, also a Ben Franklin Club member, endorsed Mr. Espaillat ahead of the club’s announcement, saying he hoped to influence its decision.
Mr. Koppell is termed out of the City Council after 2013. Mr. Dinowitz is county chair of the Bronx County Democratic Committee, which is backing Mr. Rangel.
A source said Mr. Dinowitz decided to stay neutral rather than upset the county committee but Mr. Dinowitz said recently he has not ruled out making an endorsement.
KeywordsAdam Wisnieski, Benjamin Franklin Reform Democratic Club, Adriano Espaillat, politics, Congressional District 13