Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Sunday threw his support to Rep. Charles Rangel in the Democratic primary for New York’s 13th Congressional District, an endorsement that came with less than 48 hours to go before the polls open.
Rangel, 84, is running for his 23rd term in the House of Representatives in a highly contested race. His opponents include state Sen. Adriano Espaillat, who would be the first Dominican-born member of Congress if he wins Tuesday’s primary and the general election in November, as well as Harlem minister Rev. Michael Walrond Jr.
In endorsing Rangel, Cuomo said his “experience, seniority, and steadfast commitment to improving the lives of New Yorkers continue to make him a critical voice in standing up to the Tea Party extremism that is threatening to take over Washington.”
Rangel has also gained endorsements from Sens. Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand as well as former President Bill Clinton. Espaillat has been endorsed by City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito. A NY1/Siena poll released Thursday has Rangel leading by 13 points.
One of the longest-serving members of Congress, Rangel is in a fight just to hang on to his seat, but the race’s potential kingmaker — a former Rangel ally — is remaining conspicuously silent. Mayor Bill de Blasio ran Rangel’s 1994 campaign and polls extraordinarily well with black and Latino voters. But he has decided to stay out of the race and has chided Rangel, the last of Harlem’s traditional African-American powerbrokers, for invoking Espaillat’s ethnicity.
“I don’t think the people will smile on any discussion of anything but the issues,” a visibly annoyed de Blasio said last week.
The mayor said he subsequently heard from Rangel, who assured him that he would be “cautious with word choice going forward.”
Instead of being cautious, though, Rangel doubled down, telling an interviewer that his comments “had to be said.” That infuriated de Blasio and furthered his resolve to not support Rangel, according to a member of the mayor’s inner circle.
Rangel insisted that voters would stick with a veteran lawmaker, dismissing criticism that he was too old to continue serving in Washington.
“If you had a racehorse that won 43 races, brings in the money, but the horse is old and experienced and knows the track — what would you do?” Rangel asked reporters Saturday at a Washington Heights storefront church, where he was endorsed by about a dozen Spanish-speaking ministers. “Would you send him to the glue factory?”