POLITICS

Dominican State Senator Adriano Espaillat To Challenge NY Rep. Charles Rangel In Primary

  • New York State Se. Adriano Espaillat speaks during a news conference in New York, Monday, July 9, 2012. Espaillat conceded the congressional race to his opponent, incumbent Charles Rangel. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

    New York State Se. Adriano Espaillat speaks during a news conference in New York, Monday, July 9, 2012. Espaillat conceded the congressional race to his opponent, incumbent Charles Rangel. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)  (AP)

  • NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 26:  Congressman Charles Rangel speaks after declaring himself the winner in the race for the Democratic primary challenge in New York's 15th congressional district on June 26, 2012 in New York City. After a more than four-decades-long congressional career, Rangel fought for the Democratic nomination in a newly re-drawn congressional district that is no longer dominated by African Americans. The 82-year-old Rangel was locked in a race Tuesday for the nomination in his Harlem-area district with New York state Sen. Adriano Espaillat. Espaillat, a 57-year-old Dominican-American, showed growing popularity in a district that now has more Latino-Americans than African-Americans.  (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

    NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 26: Congressman Charles Rangel speaks after declaring himself the winner in the race for the Democratic primary challenge in New York's 15th congressional district on June 26, 2012 in New York City. After a more than four-decades-long congressional career, Rangel fought for the Democratic nomination in a newly re-drawn congressional district that is no longer dominated by African Americans. The 82-year-old Rangel was locked in a race Tuesday for the nomination in his Harlem-area district with New York state Sen. Adriano Espaillat. Espaillat, a 57-year-old Dominican-American, showed growing popularity in a district that now has more Latino-Americans than African-Americans. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)  (2012 Getty Images)

He was Rep. Charles Rangel’s top challenger in 2012, coming within just 3 percentage points of unseating the then-21-term Democrat.

Now, Adriano Espaillat wants another shot. Espaillat, 59, will challenge Rangel once again in the June primary.

If he succeeds, he would essentially cruise in the November general election since the district is solidly Democratic. He would also become the first Dominican in Congress – a milestone for a community that has been growing, in size and political power, in the last two decades.

“We need a champion in Washington who will be able to bring this whole district together,” Mr. Espaillat said at a campaign kickoff in the United Palace Theater in Washington Heights, according to published reports.

Espaillat, who is a state senator, came within about 1,000 votes of beating Rangel in the primary election in 2012. Many headlines proclaimed it the biggest political fight of Rangel’s life.

This time around, Espaillat is saying his priority are housing and health issues in the district, which covers part of the Bronx and Upper Manhattan.

He added, “They’re not Dominican issues, they’re not Puerto Rican issues, they’re not black or white or Asian issues.”

Over the years, Rangel’s district has undergone significant demographic changes, with the constituency going from primarily African-American to Latino.

At Espaillat’s announcement last week, the crowd erupted into cheers of “Sí se puede!” (“Yes we can!”)

Besides the changes, Rangel, who is 83, has been dogged with scandals that have undermined his clout. He was censured in the House in 2010 for ethical violations that led to his losing his post as chairman of the Ways and Means Committee.

Melissa Mark-Viverito, who was born in Puerto Rico and became the first Hispanic New York City Council Speaker, said she is endorsing Espaillat. She campaigned for Rangel during the 2012 election.

“Adriano understands the economic challenges New Yorkers are facing, and will bring enthusiastic leadership to Washington on the issues that matter,” she said in a statement that was quoted in The New York Times.

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