State Sen. Adriano Espaillat formally launched his campaign to take Congressman Charles Rangel’s seat last week with several high-profile city politicians at his side and a chorus of vociferous constituents behind him.
In a speech in English interspersed with lengthy stretches of Spanish, Mr. Espaillat called for renewed leadership on immigration reform and for the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development to help out the city’s housing projects.
“These are the issues that are impacting us. We cannot fight them alone,” Mr. Espaillat said at the United Palace Theatre in Washington Heights on Feb. 27. “We need one voice in Washington... and that’s what lacking in this district. And that’s why I’m running for Congress.”
Given Congress’ unproductive climate — which has prompted President Barack Obama to adopt a policy of circumventing the legislative branch via executive orders — Mr. Espaillat’s goals are a tall order for any lawmaker to pursue.
Still, enthusiasm filled the United Palace Theatre as dozens of supporters from the contested 13th congressional district shouted “Sí, se puede!” (“Yes, we can!”) and “Espaillat, che vamos!” (loosely: “Let’s go, Espaillat!”).
While making a strong pitch to his base of Hispanic voters, Mr. Espaillat sought to emphasize he will work for everyone in the district — one of the most diverse in the country, as Councilman Mark Levine said in introductory remarks.
“They’re not Dominican issues; they’re not Puerto Rican issues; they’re not black or white or Asian issues,” said Mr. Espaillat, who was born in the Dominican Republic. “They impact the entire district, and very often we feel that we are fighting these issues alone.”
City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito announced her support for Mr. Espaillat prior to last Thursday’s press conference. Along with Mr. Levine, City Councilman Ydanis Rodriguez and Assemblywoman Gabriela Rosa sang Mr. Espaillat’s praises at the event.