Election Roundup: Rangel Survives, Meng Triumphs

Charles Rangel at an event on June 11th. (Photo: Justin Mitchell/Fi2W)

On Tuesday, several federal primaries took place in New York, including two in which immigrant voters had been expected to play a significant role.

In New York’s 13th Congressional District, encompassing Upper Manhattan and parts of The Bronx, veteran Congressman Charles Rangel narrowly survived a tough race against four Democratic challengers.

Rangel has represented the district since 1971, but several factors made him look vulnerable this time around.  As we reported earlier, Rangel’s district was re-drawn, causing the Hispanic populationto grow from 45% to 55%.  State Senator Adriano Espaillat, who had hoped to be the first native of the Dominican Republic elected to Congress, seemed poised to take advantage of this shift.

In 2010, Rangel was censured by the House Ethics Committee for improper use of campaign funds, tarnishing his reputation.

While Rangel received many endorsements from establishment political figures, including Mayor Michael Bloomberg and City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, several newspapers, including the New York Times, the New York Post, the New York Daily News, and El Diario, endorsed one of his opponents.

Rangel survived, but just barely.  54% of the votes in the primary were cast for his opponents.  Espaillat came in a strong second followed by the other three candidates, Clyde Williams, Joyce Johnson, and Craig Schley.

Rangel’s tone was celebratory.

“Words cannot describe my overwhelming gratitude to the voters of the 13th congressional district of our great state for believing in me,” he said.  “I welcome this special privilege to serve the people of the Bronx and those in Upper Manhattan whom I have had the honor to represent in Congress in the past. I will not let them down.”

According to DNAInfo.com, Espaillat’s concession speech focused on the future for immigrants in America.

“In many ways this candidacy was and is a true American story, fundamentally rooted in the American dream,” Espaillat said.  “We will not be deterred from that dream. We will not step back from that dream. We will move forward and make sure that American dream is better for everybody.”

Grace Meng at an event on March 2nd. (Photo: MTAPhotos/Flickr)

In NY’s 6th Congressional District, encompassing Flushing, Queens, State Assemblywoman Grace Meng, whose campaign we have previously covered, won handily in a four-way race with 51% of the vote against three other candidates.  Her closest competitor, Rory Lancman, won 28% of the vote.

Meng is now poised to become the first Asian to represent New York in Congress.  According to NY1, Meng thanked her supporters from the Asian community, but was careful to reach out to everyone.

“I am proud to be an Asian American, but I am also proud to be a woman and a mother,” Meng told NY1.  “There are so many components that make up who I am and what I want to do for our community.”

Asian-American groups such as the Minkwon Center worked hard to get out the Asian vote for Meng.  However, Tarry Hum, a professor of public policy at Queens College, says that Meng didn’t necessarily need that support, and that her victory was all but assured with many strong endorsements and sizable donations.

“It appears she was well supported by the Queens political establishment,” she told Fi2W in an email.

Austin Finan, a press spokesman for Meng’s campaign, also played down the Asian vote as a factor.

“Grace Meng’s victory is symbolic of the shared priorities of working, middle-class families in Queens,” he said in an email message.  “Grace Meng’s support spans all demographic and geographic lines in the 6th Congressional District and no one particular group of voters was responsible for our victory. It’s important to remember that what is different about working, middle-class families in Queens is nothing compared to what they have in common.”

Fi2W 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. 

AboutJustin Mitchell
Justin Mitchell was born and raised in Fairbanks, Alaska. He graduated from the University of Northern Colorado in 2002 with a degree in theater, and worked as an ESL teacher in the Czech Republic, Cambodia, and Korea. He is now a student at the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism with a focus in international journalism. Follow him on Twitter @mittinjuschell.