Podcast: Rep. Charles Rangel Runs for Reelection in a Latino Majority District

Charles Rangel speaks with supporters at the Rangel Immigration Fair on June 11th. (Photo: Justin Mitchell/Fi2W)

NEW YORK—At the Malcolm X and Dr. Betty Shabazz Memorial and Educational Center at Broadway and 165th St. in Manhattan, Rep. Charles Rangel was trying to reach out to immigrants in his newly redrawn congressional district.

The “Rangel Immigration Fair” on June 11 offered immigrants a chance to speak with organizations providing legal aid, medical care and other services.

Despite the wide range of organizations present, very few members of the public showed up.

Over all, Rangel’s district has gone from 45 percent Hispanic to 55 percent since the last election.  After the 2010 Census the district was redrawn to include Washington Heights, a strongly Dominican neighborhood and parts of the Bronx with large Hispanic populations.

In the June 26th Primary, he faces four challengers, including Adriano Espaillat, a Dominican-born state senator who many see as his most formidable opponent.

In this Feet in 2 Worlds podcast, we bring you a conversation with Congressman Rangel on how the demographic shifts in his district are affecting his race for reelection.  Fi2W executive producer John Rudolph speaks with Rangel about whether the district’s majority-Hispanic population deserves a Latino representative in Congress,  as well as his views on President Obama’s new policy on undocumented youth.

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Rangel was first elected to Congress in 1970 in an historically African American district.  Rangel’s old district included Harlem as well as El Barrio, traditionally known as the cultural center of New York’s Puerto Rican community.  Rangel, who is half African American and half Puerto Rican, might seem ideally suited to represent these groups.

But things are changing in the district.  El Barrio is still strongly Puerto Rican, but according to Census data, that population declined by 16 percent between 2000 and 2010, while the Mexican and Dominican populations rose by 7 percent and 80 percent, respectively.

Considering demographic changes in his district, and his own tribulations with ethics violations, the Congressman’s hold on his seat seems less certain than before.

On June 11th, a Mexican family enters the Malcolm X & Dr. Better Shabazz Memorial Center to take part in the Rangel Immigration Fair. (Photo: Justin Mitchell/Fi2W)

But Rangel has many clear advantages. He has the endorsements of Mayor Michael Bloomberg, City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, and current Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz.

State Senator Espaillat has fewer major political endorsements, though he has been endorsed by El Diario and the New York Post as well as former Bronx borough president Fernando Ferrer.

According to the most recent Federal Elections Commission filings, Rangel also has a massive fundraising advantage, raising over $1-million compared to Espaillat’s $333,000.

Feet in 2 Worlds is supported by the New York Community Trust and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation with additional support from the Ralph E. Odgen Foundation and the Sirus Fund. Fi2W podcasts are supported by WNYC, New York Public Radio and the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism.

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