It’s official: State Sen. Adriano Espaillat will bid to unseat Harlem Rep. Charles Rangel in a Democratic primary.
“After an overwhelming amount of encouragement from community leaders, voters, family and colleagues, I am proud to announce my candidacy for the 13th Congressional district,” Espaillat said in formalizing a run against Rangel, who was first elected to the House in 1970.
“I believe that the people of the 13th congressional district are searching for leadership with bold, new ideas in Washington D.C.,” said Espaillat, who would become the first Dominican-American elected to Congress. “I intend to conduct a vigorous campaign that will allow a full debate on the future of our city and state.”
Espaillat’s declaration — forecasted by Daily News columnist Juan Gonzalez last week — comes as Rangel, whose territory has changed under New York’s new Congressional redistricting plans, has tried to quash buzz that he planned to run again only to resign and anoint a successor of his choice.
“Any rumors that say I’m not going to serve out a full term are false,” Rangel said in a campaign statement Friday. “Again, I am absolutely running for re-election. I intend to serve my entire term. There is no wiggle room.”
A Rangel campaign spokesman declined to comment on Espaillat’s announcement Sunday.
Rangel, 81, faces any number of challenges to his re-election hopes.
For one thing, health issues have had him in and out of the hospital. Secondly, the redrawing of his district means the Latino population of voters actually outstrips the number of black voters who have been his traditional base .
And lastly, Rangel still faces fallout from the ethics woes that led to his 2010 censure by the House. In late March, Rangel and his campaign agreed to pay a $23,000 fine for using a rent-stabilized apartment as his campaign headquarters for more than 10 years.
That’s not to say Espaillat’s path to Congress is clear.
Rangel has long been the dean of the New York delegation and still had enough public support to get re-elected in 2010, even as his ethics issues made headlines. He already has the support of a number of prominent black and Latino political, suggesting the race will not be easily decided along racial lines.
There are also several others in the Democratic primary