Saturday, 9 June 2012

Will Rangel be ousted after 42 years?

Because New York is a solid blue state, we will be spared the political garbage soon to spew onto the airwaves attempting to explain to us who should preside over the further impoverishment of the middle and working classes. We’ll just have to tune in to catch some of the crap being fed to our New Jersey neighbors where the race will be a bit tighter.

We do have some votes of interest, however, including the stubborn refusal to retire of Congressman Charlie Rangel, the Harlem boss whose 15th congressional district includes my modest domicile in the upper reaches of Manhattan. Redistricting has deleted a slice of the Upper West Side from Rangel’s 15th district and added a big chunk of heavily Latino Kingsbridge and Norwood in the Bronx all the way up to Fordham University. In fact, due to the loss of population in the state, Rangel’s 15th is now the 13th. Here’s a nifty interactive map that shows the old and new districts in helpful colors.

Because the new boundaries of the old Harlem-based district have pushed the Hispanic population from 45% to 55%, Rangel is being challenged by Adriano Espaillat, a one-term, Dominican-born state senator. Espaillat, who previously sat on the city council, is also my neighbor on Park Terrace West and a nice fellow by all appearances although I wish he wouldn’t set his SUV in the illegal space next to Isham Park. I guess public service does have its privileges.

I’ve started to get glossy mailings in anticipation of the Democratic primary later this month, which is the real election for this seat. (The whole area is not exactly Republican-friendly territory—Obama won 93% in the old Rangel district four years ago.) Rangel, going for his 23rd consecutive term, is refusing to run against Espaillat at all—his material exclusively talks about the nasty Republicans and their nefarious intentions. Few would disagree up here, and it’s probably a wise approach given Rangel’s recent bad news on ethics violations and the loss of his powerful committee chair two years ago.

Espaillat has steered clear of dragging that dirty laundry into the campaign although no one’s forgotten it. I wish there were clear policy differences between the two of them that one could identify, but there aren’t. Unfortunately but probably inevitably, it’s a race based on race: people are very likely to vote their ethnicity, and that gives Adriano a slight edge to be the first Dominican in Congress, for whatever that’s worth. He won’t be running for president though—he was born on an island that the U.S. never formally annexed.

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