It looks like the third time was a charm.
Senator Adriano Espaillat clung to a 1,000 vote lead in the widely contested primary race to replace Congressman Charles Rangel, who has been in office for 46 years. It was his third attempt at the seat.
Espaillat appears to have outrun his closest challenger, and is said to be in place to become the first Dominican-American elected to the U.S. Congress, as well as the first who came to the United States as an undocumented immigrant.
If the trend holds, Espaillat will have prevailed over his strongest challenger, Assemblyman Keith Wright, in a field of nine candidates in the Democratic primary for the New York’s 13th Congressional District on Tuesday, June 28.
He faces a clear path to victory in November in the heavily Democratic district.
According to published reports and a spokesman, Espaillat told supporters at his victory celebration in Manhattan that his election made history, while Wright told supporters that every vote must be counted. Wright did not concede as of press time.
Espaillat will represent Kingsbridge, Van Cortlandt Village, University Heights, Fordham, Bedford Park and Norwood, which are parts of the district first included when it was redrawn after the 2010 U.S. Census.
The redistricting and demographic changes have made Rangel’s district more Hispanic in recent years.
On, Wednesday, June 29, with 97.9% of the precincts reporting in unofficial results, Espaillat had garnered 36.74% of the 42,833 votes counted. Wright had taken 33.85% of the tally in the federal primary.
Other top finishers included former national Democratic Party official Clyde Williams with 10.9%, former Assemblyman Adam Clayton Powell IV at 6.2%, Assemblyman Guillermo Linares with 5.5% and Rev. Suzan Johnson-Cook with 4.9%.
Wright had the endorsement of much of the borough’s political establishment, including the Benjamin Franklin Democratic Club, and a coalition of borough elected officials including Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, Congressman Eliot Engel, Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. and Assemblyman Jeff Dinowitz, according to a source.
Dinowitz also endorsed Espaillat’s previous two runs against Rangel and said he thinks highly of both Wright and Espaillat.
Espaillat enjoyed the endorsements of City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, Senator Jeff Klein, Councilman Ritchie Torres, Assemblyman Victor Pichardo and Assemblyman Luis Sepulveda.
The borough’s elected officials who backed Espaillat believe the senator will be a strong advocate for public housing, educational opportunity and immigrant and tenant rights.
Rivera said that he supported Espaillat in his 2012 and 2014 runs against Rangel.
“In this particular election, the Bronx made the difference,” said Rivera, adding that Espaillat, the Democratic nominee, would be opening an office in the Bronx after being elected.
Klein stated that he had endorsed Espaillat because he had always found him a partner in helping working- and middle-class residents.
“Last year, when we brought state funds and accountability back to NYCHA, Adriano stepped up, working tirelessly with Councilman Ritchie Torres and me to help get it done,” stated Klein. “But this is really only the latest example: from stronger rent laws that better protect tenants to increasing the minimum wage, Adriano is always there, fighting.”
Klein and Espaillat are legislators that Torres looks to for guidance on how to advance the interests of public housing residents on the state level.
“With Senator Espaillat I am confident that that partnership will extend to Congress where most of the decision making happens and most of the funding comes from,” said Torres.
The councilman said that he celebrates the larger symbolism of Espaillat milestone as a Dominican- American in Congress.
“All of us succeed when every community has representation in the halls of Congress,” said Torres. “It is a victory for America’s greatest strength, which is its diversity.”