“No,” Mr. de Blasio simply said when asked whether he plans to endorse in New York City’s highest-profile congressional contest.
Mr. Rangel’s main rival in the June 24th Democratic primary is state Sen. Adriano Espaillat, who is seeking to become the first member of congress from the Dominican Republic. The other two candidates on the ballot are the Rev. Michael Walrond Jr., pastor of First Corinthian Baptist Church in Harlem, and Yolanda Garcia, a little-known activist from the Bronx who is at the bottom of a recent public poll.
Mr. Espaillat came close to unseating Mr. Rangel, the dean of New York’s congressional delegation, two years ago. In recent years, Mr. Rangel has been caught up in an ethics flap that resulted in his losing the powerful chairmanship of the Ways and Means Committee and a formal resolution from his colleagues censuring him. Censure is the most severe sanction that can be administered next to expulsion.
At Monday’s news conference in upper Manhattan, Mr. de Blasio quickly moved to other questions after saying he wouldn’t endorse in the race, but when a reporter later asked him to explain his reluctance to take a stand, he said he knows the three leading candidates “very well.”
“I’ve worked with all of them, and I think there’s times, especially in the context of a Democratic primary, where you say it’s not particularly an appropriate place to get involved for a variety of reasons,” Mr. de Blasio said.
“So, I had to make a baseline decision, did I think I should be involved. I came to the conclusion I should not be, and we’ll obviously know in two weeks who the Democratic nominee is and, at that time, I’ll support the Democratic nominee,” the mayor added.
In 2012, Mr. de Blasio’s predecessor, Michael Bloomberg, an independent unaffiliated with any political party, supported Mr. Rangel’s successful re-election campaign. In last year’s mayoral primary, Mr. Rangel endorsed one of Mr. de Blasio’s Democratic opponents, Bill Thompson.
A spokesman for Mr. Rangel didn’t immediately return a request for comment. A spokeswoman for Mr. Espaillat declined to comment.
In response to another reporter inquiry, Mr. de Blasio urged the candidates in the race to focus on the issues and not engage in racial politicking. During a debate that was broadcast Sunday on WABC, Mr. Rangel, in reference to Mr. Espaillat, asked, “What the heck has he done, besides saying he’s a Dominican?”
Mr. de Blasio noted that he hasn’t seen the entire video of the debate, but he said, “There’s no place in this discussion for questions of race or nationality.”
“The decision should be made by the voters on the basis of substance. I certainly have heard from Congressman Rangel, that he is very mindful of being cautious with word choice going forward, and I respect that,” he said. “But I would say to all the candidates involved—let’s get back to the issues. I don’t think the people will smile on any discussion of anything but the issues.”
Both Messrs. Rangel and Espaillat attended Monday’s news conference, but both had left before reporters questioned the mayor about the race. For much of the event, which focused on an affordable housing development, five people stood between Mr. Rangel and Mr. de Blasio on the stage; Mr. Espaillat found a spot right next to the mayor (source).