Assemblyman Keith Wright conceded Thursday in the Democratic primary race to replace Harlem Rep. Charles Rangel.
At a joint press conference with all three men, Wright congratulated state Sen. Adriano Espaillat, who currently holds a small lead with more than 90 percent of the vote counted, according to the Daily News. Espaillat will likely become the first non-African American to represent Harlem in Congress since the district was created seven decades ago. Other records Espaillat broke: he will be the first Dominican-born and first to have entered the country illegally in Congress.
“We’ve left it all on the battlefield. Now is the time to come together,” Wright said outside the famed Sylvia’s Restaurant. “I want to congratulate Mr. Espaillat on running a great election. I want him to be successful. We all need him to be successful.”
Wright had the backing of Rangel and other prominent black politicians in a district that has remained a stronghold for black politicians for generations even as the number of Latinos grew.
Rangel won his congressional seat in 1970 by defeating Adam Clayton Powell Jr. in a Democratic primary. He is retiring after 46 years in office.
Rangel mused over the neighborhood’s changing demographics, from the Jews at the turn of the 20th century, to African-Americans and now Hispanics.
“How do I feel now that politics has shifted from Harlem to Washington Heights?” Rangel said. “I don’t know how the Italians felt when the Puerto Ricans moved to East Harlem. I don’t know how the Irish and German Jews felt when the Hispanics came to Washington Heights. I don’t know how the whites felt when the blacks from Hell’s Kitchen moved to Harlem. But I do know one thing, is that’s what America’s all about. That’s what change is all about. We have enough room for everyone to work together.”
Espaillat had failed to knock off Rangel twice before in Democratic primaries. He assured black voters that despite his different background he will look after them.
“There is no difference,” he said. “Maybe their ancestors picked cotton. Mine cut sugar cane.”
The general election in November features a token Republican candidate in an overwhelmingly Democratic district.