NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Will U.S. Rep. Charles Rangel remain the “Lion King of Harlem” or will he lose his throne to one of a number of cubs who want to replace him?
As CBS 2’s Marcia Kramer reported Thursday, next week’s Democratic primary could be historic.
“I pass laws; he doesn’t,” Rangel said.
And with just those five words Rangel, flamboyantly dressed in a jaunty bow tie, matching pocket square and crisp striped shirt, dismissed state Sen. Adriano Espaillat, the man who wants to put a period on the Harlem legend’s 40-plus years in Washington.
“I got a record in Washington. He has none in Albany. I’ve been there every day. He’s been there half the time,” said the 84-year-old Rangel. “He doesn’t even know the names of the people in the Congress and I’ve worked with them over the years.”
But Espaillat, 59, can’t be dismissed so easily. He came within a hair of beating the man called “the lion of Harlem” two years ago and now he has the support of a lot more people, including the Working Families Party, teachers union president Michael Mulgrew, and former City Comptroller Bill Thompson, who campaigned with him on Thursday.
“This is the right change and that’s why I’m here with him,” Thompson said.
It has been an ugly campaign. Rangel and Espaillat have leveled charges and counter charges — some true, some not. Espaillat has tried to remind people that Rangel was censured for not reporting rent from his Dominican Republic villa and improperly using congressional stationery.
“After his censure he hasn’t been able to pass legislation and he’s been ineffective,” Espaillat said.
It has also to some extent been a race focused on race — in a diverse and newly gentrified district.
Rangel, who is half Puerto Rican, has tried to mobilize his long-time supporters. Espaillat, who is Dominican, has tried to appeal also to white voters with his recent endorsement by the New York Times.
But it’s not a two-person race. Popular Harlem pastor Michael Walrond is running a vigorous campaign.
“I embody real transformational change,” Walrond said.
Also on the ballot is Yolanda Garcia, a Dominican-born community organizer who has raised little money, has not participated in debates and yet could pull enough votes to hurt Espaillat and help Rangel, Kramer reported.
At the end of the day the race will hinge on which candidate does the best job getting out the vote, Kramer reported.
Congressional primaries in the Tri-State Area are on Tuesday. In addition to the Rangel seat there are 10 more contests in New York, including three on Long Island, four in New York City and three upstate. One race bridges Long Island and Queens, Kramer reported.
A Siena College poll released Thursday night showed Rangel leading Espaillat 47 percent to 34 percent among likely primary voters, increasing his lead to 13 percentage points, up from 9 last month.
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