Rangel, Foes Spar at Primary Debate

NEW YORK (AP) -

A debate Wednesday night between Rep. Charles Rangel and two candidates looking to replace him in Washington largely stayed away from the issues of racial divides that had been the flashpoint of a previous meeting, but had several moments of contention over their qualifications.

Rangel, who turned 84 on Wednesday, faced state Sen. Adriano Espaillat, who would be the first Dominican-born member of Congress if elected, and minister Michael Walrond at the debate in the Bronx.

The candidates, competing in the June 24 Democratic primary, took shots at each other throughout the debate.

Answering a question about housing, Espaillat made a reference to Rangel getting into an ethics scandal in part over his usage of such apartments.

“If you’re a member of Congress, you shouldn’t merge your apartments and take it away from the regular population that needs rent stabilized apartments,” Espaillat said to applause.

Rangel, running for his 23rd term, highlighted his experience. “I don’t really think this is the time for trainees, no matter how passionate they are, to be going to [Congress],” he said.

The debate did have its lighter moments, such as when the candidates were asked if they had ever ridden in a horse-drawn carriage.

“Have I ever raced one?” Rangel asked. “No, I admit I’m old. We had cars then.”