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Sunday, August 31, 2014
Primary '14

Espaillat gains more momentum in Bronx

By Shant Shahrigian
Posted

When the Benjamin Franklin Reform Democratic Club endorsed state Sen. Adriano Espaillat to unseat Rep. Charles Rangel in 2012, the grassroots group was among a minority of official voices on the senator’s side.

Fast-forward two years, and the club’s renewed endorsement is part of a wave of city- and state-level support for the challenger throughout this borough as well as Mr. Rangel’s home base of Upper Manhattan.

A large majority of Ben Franklin Club members voted to endorse Mr. Espaillat on May 7. Seventy-six people checked off ballots in support of the senator, while Mr. Rangel earned 20 votes and five people abstained. That left underdogs Rev. Michael Walrond and activist Yolanda Garcia without any supporters in the Ben Franklin Club, which brings volunteers and credibility to the candidates it endorses.

Club rules prevented any of the congressional candidates from speaking. In the event, Mr. Espaillat was the only one who showed up. He smiled from the front row of a packed meeting room at the Tibbett Palace on Irwin Avenue as club members sang his praises.

“Two years ago, the club endorsed Adriano Espaillat,” said Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz, a leading voice in the club. “He almost won against an institution. It’s two years later. He’s two years smarter… two years more experienced [and has] two yearsmore accomplishments.”

Mr. Dinowitz said he did not personally endorse anyone in 2012, when Mr. Espaillat lost the Democratic primary to Mr. Rangel by just over 1,000 votes, because he thought Mr. Rangel was going to retire two years from then.

With Mr. Rangel running again — and saying this coming term would be his last one — Mr. Dinowitz said the situation would make the incumbent “a lame duck” in Congress. He added that Mr. Espaillat has the chance to build seniority and influence in the body.

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