May 17, 2012 at 2:46 PM
By Ronald Chavez
On the campaign trail, certain props become redundant. Microphones, podiums, and teleprompters. But at a house party to meet State Assemblyman Adriano Espaillat, who is running for a congressional seat against longtime incumbent Charlie Rangel in Congress, traditional campaign decorum was traded for hummus, crackers and cheese.
Espaillat, who would be the first Dominican elected to Congress, stood in a Kingsbridge Heights living room with about 10 northwest Bronx residents as they munched on frosted pretzels and other snacks while asking how he would represent the northwest Bronx.
Espaillat, who has said it was time for areas like Washington Heights to get better representation, said at the house party he would fight to ensure all the neighborhoods he represents get equal funding. He also said he would look into methods to increase voter turnout in the Bronx.
His main opponent, the 81-year-old Rangel, is still hugely popular in his congressional district. But his reputation in Congress was marred after being convicted of ethics violations over his use of rent stabilized apartments in Manhattan.
And now redrawn district lines have changed voter demographics. The district was moved into the northwest Bronx and pulled out somewhat of the upper west side of Manhattan, Rangel’s home base. Hispanics now make up 55 percent of a district that used to be anchored by a predominantly African-American Harlem area.
But Espaillat is banking on policy, and not demographics, to push him into office.
“If your rent is too high, it doesn’t matter if you’re black or white, the rent is high,” he said. He added that his grandmother had rented a five-bedroom, two-and-a-half-bathroom apartment in Washington Heights.
State Senator Gustavo Rivera, who attended the house party after previously endorsing Espaillat, said a strong progressive voice is needed to back up President Barack Obama on his agendas in Congress.
Espaillat also said his campaign was not in direct contact with an anti-incumbent Super Political Action Committee (PAC) that announced its support for Espaillat last week. (Direct contact with Super PACs is a violation of campaign finance regulations.) But when it came to their support, “I’m not going to say no,” he said.
Editor’s note: A version of this article appears in the May 17-30 print edition of the Norwood News.