Under the shimmering gold ceiling of the United Palace Theatre in Washington Heights, State Sen. Adriano Espaillat officially announced his campaign for Congress Thursday afternoon, placing him at odds with the 22-term Rep. Charles Rangel for New York’s 13th congressional seat.
Espaillat will face off against Rangel and newcomer Rev. Michael Walrond in the Democratic Party primaries on June 24.
“I think it’s time for change,” Espaillat said amongst a crowd of supporters. “We need one voice in Washington.”
Espaillat said that he would push for several issues on a national level, including affordable housing, immigrants’ rights, and employment—issues he said were relevant in the 13th District, which includes much of Upper Manhattan and the South Bronx.
Espaillat said his experience as the state senator representing Upper Manhattan qualified him for the job.
On Thursday afternoon, Espaillat was joined in support by City Council members Mark Levine and Ydanis Rodriguez and New York State Assembly member Gabriela Rosa.
“Espaillat is going to open the door for all of District 13, but also Dominicans who need a space in Washington,” Rosa said. “We started something in 2012 that we are going finish in 2014.”
“He didn’t move to another state to campaign here,” Rodriguez said, referencing Walrond’s current residency in New Jersey. Under campaign laws, candidates only need to live in the area they’re representing at the time of the elections.
In the 2012 elections, Espaillat lost to Rangel by a narrow two percent—less than 1,000 votes. Due to redistricting that same year, the demographics of the district have changed—the percentage of Latinos in the district increased from 45 percent to 55 percent, which could benefit Espaillat at the polls.
Espaillat’s announcement comes as individuals and organizations begin to endorse candidates.
City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, CC ’91, announced her endorsement for Espaillat in a New York Daily News article published Thursday. The Barack Obama Democratic Club in Washington Heights also endorsed Espaillat Wednesday evening.
The Plumbers Local 1 union announced its endorsement for Rangel Thursday morning, joining the Broadway Democrats’ endorsement last Thursday.
“We welcome challengers to the contest and look forward to a spirited debate,” Rangel said in a statement Thursday. “Working with President Obama and Mayor de Blasio, there is nobody who can do more for the families of the 13th District to deliver the progressive results we need.”
In December, Rangel said that “it’s not going to be a difficult election,” pointing to his 42 years of experience in the House of Representatives.
Espaillat will now embark on a four-day campaign tour of the district, which no longer includes Columbia’s Morningside campus after the 2012 redistricting.
“I’ll be 25 pounds lighter and have gone through three pairs of shoes,” he said about his upcoming campaign.