On the last Saturday before the primary for the seat he has held for 43 years, Representative Charles B. Rangel and his top rival, State Senator Adriano D. Espaillat, spent hours shaking the hands of black, white and Hispanic residents, seeking broad coalitions in a hotly contested election where accusations of racial and ethnic divisiveness have dominated debates.
But on Sunday, each man focused squarely on his base. Mr. Rangel addressed mostly black congregations in Harlem, depicting himself as the only candidate with the experience and wisdom to help President Barack Obama in his last two years in office. Mr. Espaillat, who was born in the Dominican Republic, campaigned outside churches filled with mostly Hispanic parishioners in Washington Heights and Inwood.
Mr. Rangel appeared confident, buoyed by a recent poll showing him with a 13-point lead over Mr. Espaillat and an endorsement on Sunday afternoon from Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, who said in a statement that the congressman was needed as “a critical voice in standing up to the Tea Party extremism that is threatening to take over Washington.”
Mr. Rangel peppered his pulpit deliveries with the message about the Tea Party. “Now, I’m not saying our president is a saint, but I know one thing: All of my life I prayed that something like this could happen in our country,” Mr. Rangel, dressed in a Sunday-best dark suit and yellow tie, said at Canaan Baptist Church of Christ on 116th Street.
“God sent us Barack Obama,” he added. “With his background, we don’t have to check out where his heart is. Who would have thought that a handful of people called the Tea Party would have so much hatred for this man that they are willing to hurt themselves to bring him down?” asked Mr. Rangel, who has not been endorsed by the president but is being backed by former President Bill Clinton.
At Our Lady Queen of Martyrs on Arden Street in Inwood, the reception to Mr. Espaillat, who wore an off-white suit, was mixed. Some parishioners seemed annoyed by his Sunday morning get-out-the-vote operation on a sidewalk out front. Still, one couple told him they were delaying travel plans so they could vote for him on Tuesday.
Source: The New York Times | NIKITA STEWART