Rangel Win Exposes Divisions in Latino Vote

(Photo by Juan Matossian via El Diario/La Prensa)

(Photo by Juan Matossian via El Diario/La Prensa)

[As Rep. Charles B. Rangel claimed victory after holding a slim lead over state Sen. Adriano D. Espaillat after Tuesday’s primary election contest, the battle that could have put the first Dominican-born member in Congress reflected the divisions among Latinos in East Harlem, as reported by El Diario/La Prensa’s Juan Matossian. Below is a condensed version of his story.]

In El Barrio, the divisions between those who favored Adriano Espaillat and those who backed Charles Rangel were evident.

Near polling site P.S. 57 on 115th Street, volunteers for both campaigns fought for every inch of the sidewalk to best position themselves to attract voters.

“I’ve been here since 6 a.m., and I will not move until 9 in the evening, when they close the sites. Today is a historic day, and we have to fight,” said a volunteer for Espaillat’s campaign, Marco Antonio Torres, 54, from Puerto Rico. “We need a new face in El Barrio, and someone to control the rents. It’s time for the old man to leave.”

Across the street, Samantha Blackwell Morales, 23, had spent the whole day there asking people to vote for Rangel because “he fought to keep a community center open where my children attend.”

Those who have lived all their lives in El Barrio seem to be more inclined to vote for Rangel, who has represented the state’s 13th District in Congress for more than 40 consecutive years.

“My great-grandmother and my grandmother voted for Rangel, and I will too,” said Kelmy Rodríguez, 54. “There are 30 of us in my family living in this area, and we will all vote for him. This is not the time to make changes, and we need experience. Espaillat would need two years in Congress just to find his way to the bathrooms.”

Adrián Sánchez, the 49-year-old Mexican owner of Kalhúa’s Café and Restaurant, said that “recently, Espaillat’s people came by to put his posters on my restaurant without my permission. I was very offended because they were quite arrogant. They cannot assume that we will vote for him just because we are Latino. For them, we are only a number. The rest of the year, they are nowhere to be seen.”

Among youths, Espaillat’s message of change seemed to be more popular.

“Rangel is old and cowardly, while Espaillat is younger and braver. If anyone can bring about change to this district, it is Espaillat,” said Javier Colón, 23.

Notwithstanding its mostly Hispanic population, El Barrio turned its back on Adriano Espaillat two years ago, when Rangel obtained 2,500 more votes in this neighborhood, according to the city’s Board of Elections. Rangel ended up winning the district by some 1,000 total votes. This time around, with the support of City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, Espaillat – born in the Dominican Republic – hoped to turn the tables.

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