Update: As of 1:04 a.m. EST, Democratic Rep. Charles Rangel of New York led his opponent Sen. Adriano Espaillat in the polls 47.4% to 43.6%, according to the Associated Press, with 100% of precincts reporting. The final result had not yet been called by the Associated Press.
When Gloria Pinckney and her one-year-old child moved to Harlem from South Carolina 32 years ago, she was scared to go outside. Buildings were in shambles, drugs were being sold on street corners in broad daylight and violence was rampant. She had one word to describe it: “hell.”
But now, when the 59-year-old looks around 119th street and Frederick Douglass Boulevard, she sees luxury condos, a Starbucks, and a new grocery store. She partially attributes the change in her neighborhood to New York Rep. Charles Rangel, who after a tumultuous 43 years in Congress, is running for a final term in what could be the most heated four way primary race of his career, with his biggest challenge coming from state Sen. Adriano Espaillat.
“He’s been fighting all these years,” said the retired medical worker on Tuesday after she cast her ballot for the 84-year-old Democrat at Emanuel Church in Harlem. “He’s really helped change the neighborhood,” pointing to his achievements in civil rights and affordable housing.
Similarly, Shamil Turner, a 32-year-old IT engineer, also voted for Rangel, praising the veteran politician's experience and D.C. connections. “He’ll continue the progress he’s made so far,” said Turner.
Of course, not everyone sees it that way. To critics, Rangel represents the status quo -- and a tenure tainted by a 2010 ethics scandal in which he was found guilty of 11 House charges. The violations resulted in Rangel giving up his prized post as chairman of the powerful Ways and Means Committee.
For Espaillat, 59, it’s a second chance. He lost to Rangel by just over 1,000 votes two years ago. But due to the lingering aftermath of the Rangel scandal and redistricting which has resulted in the 13th Congressional district having a Hispanic majority, a win for the legendary black lawmaker and civil rights figure who symbolized Harlem for decades is no guarantee.
If Espaillat wins, he’d be the country’s first Dominican-American congressman. A Rangel loss would mean the official end of Harlem’s legendary “Gang of Four,” an influential group of African-American power brokers that included Rangel, former NYC Mayor David Dinkins, former Manhattan Borough President Percy Sutton and Harlem leader Basil Paterson. Paterson and Sutton have both died and Dinkins retired from politics after losing his re-election bid to Rudy Giuliani in 1993.
A NY1/Siena College Poll released last week showed Rangel beating Espaillat by 13 points with a margin of error of 3.7 percentage points. But because 30% said they had not yet made up their mind and voter turnout is expected to be low, there is no clear cut frontrunner. Whoever clinches the primary is expected to also be victorious in the general election in the district which has an overwhelming Democratic majority.
Gail Addiss, a 64-year-old architect said in Inwood that she voted for Esaillat because Rangel has proven “completely ineffective after his censure.” She added: “It’s time for a new person with a new agenda.”
After he cast his ballot at PS 98 – a school on 212th street in the heavily Hispanic neighborhood in Inwood, Espaillat -- accompanied by his son and grandson -- told reporters that while he has respect for Rangel: “He’s part of the past and we’re part of the future. We are moving forward.”
Polls close at 9 p.m.