Voters head to polls in congressional primary contest

There’ll be two congressional primary races in the Bronx when voters go to the polls on Tuesday.

But the only contest that really counts will be a make-or-break one for veteran congressman Charles Rangel.

With redistricting changing Rangel’s longtime heavily black Harlem district into a majority Latino district stretching into the Bronx, he is facing a strong challenge from northern Manhattan/lower Riverdale Senator Adriano Espaillat and three other challengers.

Rangel, who just turned 82, has been battered by ethics issues, and most recently, back problems that have him using a walker to get through a grueling campaign.

He has the support of a heavy chunk of the Bronx political establishment, including Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. and Bronx Democratic Party Boss Carl Heastie.

Espaillat, who is counting on a strong Dominican vote among the general Hispanic vote, has the backing of former Bronx Borough President Freddy Ferrer, West Bronx Senator Gustavo Rivera, Assemblyman Nelson Castro, Councilman Oliver Koppell and Riverdale’s Ben Franklin Democratic Reform Club, among others.

Also on the ballot – and viewed as potential vote drainers from Espaillat – are Joyce Johnson, Craig Schley, and Clyde Edward Williams Jr.

Three-quarters of the new 13th District is in Manhattan and one-quarter in the Bronx, picking up the neighborhoods of Kingsbridge, Kingsbridge Heights, Van Cortlandt Village, Norwood, University Heights and Bedford Park.

The only other congressman facing a potential challenger is Eliot Engel, with Aniello A.M. Grimaldi of Co-op City also on the ballot line for the newly created 16th Congressional District covering a northern swath of the Bronx, from Riverdale across to Co-op City, as well as Yonkers and another west to east swath across lower Westchester.

Engel’s old 17th Congressional District was recently eliminated in redistricting, with Engel losing the Rockland County part of his district.

The congressional primary is a prelude to the Sept. 11 primary for state senate and assembly seats, as well as a Bronx Surrogate’s seat.

The Board of Elections will be using electronic scanners, with voters marking paper ballots and scanning them. But either way, all votes will be tallied by hand.

The board will be setting up 207 polling sites across the Bronx, open from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m.

Voters who need specific information can go to the board’s website at VOTE.NYC.NY.US, or call 866-VOTENYC.

More from Around NYC