Espaillat makes a ‘fresh’ argument against Rangel, despite the Albany thing

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Espaillat on NY1. (ny1.com)
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State Senator Adriano Espaillat said it's the calendar, not the demographics, that is driving his decision to mount a primary challenge 81-year-old congressman Charles Rangel.

"My decision wasn't driven by ethnic politics," Espaillat, 56, said in an interview with NY1 last night. It was "driven by a need to have a fresh, new, bold voice in Congress."

The Upper Manhattan district is now, for the first time, majority-Latino. And Espaillat has not been shy about noting the district's demographic changes. But in his first television interview about his candidacy since declaring, Espaillat stuck to the idea that it's more about generation than ethnicity.

"I'm asking for the residents of this new district to really take a look at a new leadership that's proposing a new agenda on the table, to turn the page," he said.

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When asked for an issue on which his newness and freshness would come into play, Espaillat cited the Dream Act.

"Congress has not passed the Dream Act," he said. "That is terrible."

Passing would "be my first priority if I go to Washington," he said.

When told that Rangel voted for the Dream Act, Espaillat said, "Possibly he did. I'm sure that he did. But Congress is not about Congressman Rangel. It's really about Congress, the institution that has failed to articulate the issues that are relevant and important" to people in the district.

Of course, Albany, where Espaillat currently serves, hasn't passed its version of the Dream Act, either. Espaillat introduced the legislation, but hasn't succeeded in getting Andrew Cuomo to so much as take a public position on it.

Similarly, complaining about the shortcomings of Congress is a hard argument to make for a member of a legislative body once called the most dysfunctional in the nation. (Unnamed sources close to Cuomo, reportedly, argue that Senate Democrats, despite being in the minority, are a big part of the problem.)