Espaillat will challenge Rangel
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By Adam Wisnieski
If Mr. Diaz’s support of Mr. Rangel is a sign of how things may play out, it means that representing a piece of the Bronx already and being one of the most prominent elected Latinos in the state is still not good enough to beat one of the longest-serving congressmen in the nation.
Last week, state Sen. Rev. Ruben Diaz Sr. even bragged in his “Things You Should Know” column about how his son had a major hand in getting Mr. Espaillat support from the Bronx to win Riverdale. The Boogie Down neighborhoods drawn into the proposed district are Kingsbridge, Kingsbridge Heights, Van Cortlandt Village, Bedford Park and Norwood. The area Mr. Espaillat represents in the Bronx is not part of it, but one thing connects Riverdale to those areas: the Ben Franklin Reform Democratic Club.
The Ben Franklin Club campaigned wholeheartedly for Mr. Espaillat and without the group’s support, he would not have won Riverdale and may not have won the Democratic primary.
What will the Ben Franklin Club do? Nobody knows.
Mr. Espaillat showed up at the club on March 15 to speak to members, though he wasn’t officially running at the time. Councilwoman Inez Dickens, who is co-district leader with Mr. Rangel of the Martin Luther King Jr. Democratic Club in Manhattan, spoke in favor of supporting Mr. Rangel.
“I don’t know what the club will do,” said Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz, one of the club’s most prominent members.
“I think most people in the club think very highly of [Mr. Espaillat],” he added.
What else does Mr. Espaillat have that Mr. Rangel doesn’t? His background is clean.
In 2010, Mr. Rangel was found guilty of 11 violations by a House ethics committee. He was later censured by the House.
The ethics controversy began in 2008, yet no one challenged him for his seat in the primary that year.
In 2010, he easily beat five challengers in a primary.
Let the race begin.
Engel’s new district
Rep. Eliot Engel’s district, now dubbed District 16, will be transformed into a compact district that will span the north Bronx and southern Westchester County, according to new lines approved by the courts on Monday.
Riverdale will no longer be connected to Rockland County through Mr. Engel’s seat, splitting up two very active Jewish communities that have been some of Mr. Engel’s strongest supporters for years. In the Bronx, the district will include Riverdale, Woodlawn, Edenwald, Wakefield, Baychester and Co-op City.
Mr. Engel said he thought the new lines were drawn fairly.
“I actually think the master did a very good job to make these districts as compact as they could be,” referring to special master Judge Roanne Mann, who was in charge of drawing the lines.
The new district means Kingsbridge, Kingsbridge Heights and Van Cortlandt Village residents will not see Mr. Engel’s name on their ballots as they have for two decades. Those neighborhoods will be part of District 13, where Rep. Charlie Rangel is the incumbent.
“I’m losing some of Kingsbridge and Kingsbridge Heights and the Amalgamated. That bothers me,” he said. “You lose a number of people that you’ve worked hard with for 10 years … It’s very difficult with the stroke of the pen to lose them.”
Petitioning began on Tuesday and as of press time, no challengers had announced a campaign. It appears likely that Mr. Engel will run unopposed as he has the last two elections. The primary will take place on June 26.
Ben Franklin endorsements
There were no big surprises at the Ben Franklin Reform Democratic Club endorsement meeting on March 15. The club endorsed Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, Rep. Eliot Engel, Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz, district leaders Bruce Feld and Randi Martos and state committee members Bill Weitz and Helen Morik, according to Mr. Feld.
The club did not weigh in on state Senate elections or the possible congressional race for the district currently held by Rep. Charlie Rangel because there were still too many unanswered questions. When the club met, the congressional lines were not certain and the date of the state legislature primaries was not official.
Mr. Feld said the club wants to give candidates a chance to speak to club members before any endorsements take place. Petitioning kicked off on Tuesday, so time is of the essence. The club plans to hold a special meeting to endorse candidates once the primary dates are set, but since the legislature is so busy dealing with the budget and other big issues, Mr. Feld said there’s a chance state Sens. Jeff Klein and Gustavo Rivera might not be able to make it to the club to explain themselves.
“There’s an old joke which I’ve been telling which I’ve always loved … If we had ham, we could have ham and eggs, if we had eggs,” Mr. Feld said to explain the predicament.
Worth mentioning …
We ran through a list of possible challengers to Rep. Eliot Engel after his district lines changed in last week’s paper, but a spokesman for Assemblyman Carl Heastie said he should not be on that list. “Assemblyman Heastie in no way, shape or form would run against Congressman Engel. The two enjoy a great relationship and have a shared commitment to the residents of the Bronx,” he wrote in an e-mail.
The Multiple Sclerosis Society named Councilman Oliver Koppell “Legislator of the Year” for his efforts to require that every taxi in the city be wheelchair accessible.
Parks and Recreation Commissioner Adrian Benepe met with Bronx electeds at borough hall on March 16 to talk about Bronx parks projects being built with Croton Filtration money. Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz said he told the commissioner that the pedestrian bridge in Van Cortlandt should get moving, but Mr. Benepe had no response. “They don’t have any answers for any of these things,” Mr. Dinowitz said.
The Northwest Bronx Community and Clergy Coalition (NWBCCC,) Kingsbridge Armory Redevelopment Alliance (KARA,) the Living Wage Coalition and community activists will join together on Wednesday, March 21 at 6 p.m. in front of the Kingsbridge Armory to rally for responsible development of the Armory.
-Reporting contributed by Jean-Luc Roussel
KeywordsAdam Wisnieski, Adriano Espaillat, Political Arena, Charlie Rangel, Congress, Ruben Diaz, Jr. Community Board 8, Ben Franklin Club, Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz, Rep. Eliot Engel, Councilman Oliver Koppell, Adrian Benepe, NWBCCC.