New York City

Two Brooklyn Councilmen back Espaillat for Congress

A pair of New York City Councilmen from Brooklyn have decided to weigh in on the crowded race to succeed longtime U.S. Rep. Charles Rangel by endorsing state Sen. Adriano Espaillat.

Espaillat, who would be the first Dominican-American elected to Congress, described the endorsements of Councilmen Antonio Reynoso and Rafael Espinal as an extension of his progressive politics, noting that Reynoso is co-chairman of the Council’s Progressive Caucus and labeling Espinal another “up-and-coming progressive leader.”

It’s unlikely the Progressive Caucus Alliance, a political arm of the city’s legislative caucus, would get involved in the 13th Congressional District, which comprises upper Manhattan and a portion of the Bronx. Rangel is slated to retire at the end of 2016.

"The support of Council members Reynoso and Espinal matters in this district because they are progressive leaders, our districts share much in common, and we are committed to taking this city in a direction that reflects our values,” Espaillat said in a statement.

Espinal, who also supported Espaillat in a primary campaign to unseat Rangel, said he’s known the state Senator for many years and values him as a “fighter for those in need,” whether that be upstate farm laborers calling for more workers’ rights or those in his uptown district pushing for a $15-an-hour minimum wage.

“Aside from that, if he wins this race he will be the first Dominican to take office in Congress, and I think it would be great to have a Dominican representing us in Washington, D.C.,” said Espinal, whose family came to the United States from the Dominican Republic.

Reynoso, who has Dominican heritage, said he was thrilled to support Espaillat because of his “rock solid” commitment to “ensuring equity.”

Angelo Falcón, a political scientist and founder of the Institute for Puerto Rican Policy – now the National Institute for Latino Policy – said it would be difficult to suss out exactly how the endorsements will play into the race, noting Espaillat will face another Dominican-American, Assemblyman Guillermo Linares.

The only connector is the Dominican connection,” Falcón said. “Espaillat becoming a congressman is a big deal for the Dominican community, not only even in New York, but nationally as well – that would make him the highest-ranking Dominican in American politics.”

Besides Linares, Espaillat will face Assemblyman Keith Wright, who has Rangel’s endorsement; former state Sen. Adam Clayton Powell IV; Suzan Johnson Cook, who has served as a faith leader for the Clinton and Obama administrations; Clyde Williams, who was political director for the Democratic National Committee; and Mike Gallagher, a stay-at-home father who previously worked in publishing.