2:58 pm Aug. 1, 2012
Despite a "perfect storm" that should have propelled Adriano Espaillat, Charlie Rangel's campaign manager suggested last night that Espaillat was lucky to avoid an "ass-whupping" at the hands of the longtime incumbent.
At a panel discussion on the aftermath of the race, Moises Perez dismissed the idea that Espaillat had over-performed, given Espaillat's status as the first Dominican congressional candidate, combined with the recent elections in the Dominican Republic and a prolonged fight for a Dominican-drawn seat in this year's re-districting.
"You're talking about almost like a perfect storm for Adriano," Perez said. "You put all that together and still the turnout in Washington Heights was not significantly higher than when he ran for the Senate. On top of all that, when you take the African-American votes that went to the other candidates in Harlem, it would have been an ass-whupping for the Washington Heights candidate, whoever that was."
The forum was titled "The Rise of Latino Power?" and Perez was joined on stage by Espaillat's campaign manager, Shammeik Barat, in an appearance that was reportedly discouraged by Espaillat's camp. (Barat is not working on Espaillat's re-election campaign to the state senate.) One of Espaillat's allies, Councilman Ydanis Rodriguez, canceled on the event and refused to re-join even after the original moderator, NY1's Juan Manuel Benitez—with whom he had a recent spat—was replaced by Angelo Falcon.
About three dozen attendees stayed for nearly three hours in an upstairs conference room at the union 32BJ, as Perez and Barat dissected, and occasionally argued, over the prudence of Espaillat's campaign and the power of various ethnic groups going forward.
Perez said Espaillat's aggressive campaign for a Dominican seat in re-districting, and his outspoken campaign as the first Dominican, caused a backlash among other Latino leaders in the district.
"It was a reaction to the very nationalistic, Dominican thing and 'screw everything else' that was perpetrated," he said. "When I saw Ydanis Rodriguez marching through the Bronx, 'We're here, we're not begging, we're here to demand this, demand that'...That really got under the skin of about every Puerto Rican elected official, not only in East Harlem, but in the Bronx. And I don't think that—it's almost like amateurish, the way they handled that."
Barat defended the focus on Espaillat's ethnicity.
"You had the first Dominican running for Congress, and it gives you the right to make it Dominican, in a way, it really does," she said. "Because you're there, it's the first. You shouldn't have to walk away from it, you shouldn't have to be ashamed it."
Perez said he thought Espaillat had injured Dominicans' chances to elect a congressman two years from now, when the field is likely to include candidates from across the district, and suggested the real loss for the Dominican community came when Espaillat gave up his seniority in the Assembly to run for State Senate in 2010.
"The Dominican community now has no seniority anywhere," he said.
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