In the race for Rep. Charles Rangel’s congressional seat, the field is starting to narrow.
Vince Morgan, one of the first challengers to declare his candidacy, announced Tuesday morning that he is withdrawing from the race and endorsing State Senator Adriano Espaillat.
“When people really evaluate the candidates and the leadership we want to send to D.C., I think they’ll come to the same decision I did—that there’s only one candidate who can best represent” the district, Morgan told Spectator.
The pool of Democratic candidates to represent the 13th Congressional District, which is centered in Harlem, shrinks to five with Morgan’s withdrawal. The Democratic primary will take place June 26.
Morgan wouldn’t say whether he thinks the other challengers should drop out so as to avoid splitting the anti-Rangel vote, as happened in 2010.
“It’s a crowded field,” Morgan said. “The election is set 77 days from now, and in a crowded field in a compressed cycle, it doesn’t help anyone that doesn’t come with a built-in base.”
When Morgan worked as a staffer in Rangel’s office, he got to know Espaillat personally, as the state senator’s district covers much of the same territory that Rangel’s does.
“Working with Mr. Espaillat firsthand, I’ve seen not only his ability, but his level of commitment to the people of his district,” Morgan said. “In this race, I believe we need a congressperson who has the ability to bring all the wonderful pieces of the district together into a common agenda, a common purpose.”
Morgan praised Espaillat, saying he has represented his district well and prioritized important issues such as job creation.
This was Morgan’s second run against Rangel. He will now support Espaillat’s bid to defeat Rangel, a 41-year incumbent, as the race heads into full-on campaigning mode.
“I’ll be anywhere he [Espaillat] needs me to be,” Morgan said.
The other candidates in the race are former Bill Clinton adviser Clyde Williams and activists Joyce Johnson and Craig Schley. Most of the candidates have criticized Rangel for perpetuating the status quo, and Morgan, a former Rangel campaign director, was no exception.
“We need leadership that prioritizes the people of the district, not prioritizes one person or one person’s legacy at the expense of the people of the district. It’s not any one person’s seat. It’s our seat,” he said. “The notion that it’s not his [Espaillat’s] time or anyone else’s time to succeed Mr. Rangel is far-fetched.”
The 13th Congressional District has seen dramatic changes due to redistricting this year. A majority of voting-age residents in the district are now Hispanic.
“It’s not a black district, and it hasn’t been a black district for a long time,” Morgan said. “We have to stop talking about the race or ethnic background of the person who represents us and start talking about the qualifications and the agenda of the person who represents us.”
Morgan, a businessman and School of International and Public Affairs graduate, rose to prominence during his campaign for putting pressure on the West Harlem Development Corporation—the organization responsible for investing $76 million from Columbia in the local economy—to be more transparent and to start spending some of the more than $3.5 million it has already received from Columbia.
Morgan has two young children, and he said the campaign “took a lot of time away from my family and took a lot of personal resources.”
“I got a lot of great experiences from it … It was a fantastic experience, and I would recommend people consider pubic service in some form in their own lives,” he added.
Espaillat—who would become the first Dominican American elected to Congress—is popular in northern Manhattan, where his district is centered, but he does not have as much local name recognition as Rangel, who has overcome multiple ethics scandals to serve more than four decades in Congress. Rangel has already been endorsed by several Upper West Side Democratic clubs.
An earlier version of this article reported that this was Vince Morgan’s third bid for Congress. It was his second. Spectator regrets the error.