Pass the baton in District 13

One of the closest congressional races is in District 13, where Rep. Charles Rangel, a 21-term congressman, is competing against three African-American and one Hispanic candidate.

The fact that Rangel now faces stiff competition inside his own party and base isn’t fortuitous. The demographics of the neighborhoods he has represented since 1971 and the ones he would begin representing for the first time in November have changed. After congressional boundaries were redrawn months ago, District 13 expanded to areas like Upper Manhattan and parts of the Bronx. Latinos account for 55% of voters in Rangel’s new district, which includes Washington Heights and East Harlem.

Many residents in that district yearn for new leadership. While Rangel has been a tireless representative, elections can’t be based on how long incumbents want to stay in power.

In this race, New York State Senator Adriano Espaillat is by far the strongest challenger and he has stirred enthusiasm among Hispanic and other voters who want to give another leader a chance to advocate for them on Capitol Hill. For 16 years, Espaillat has advocated for initiatives that benefit poor and middle class New Yorkers, with tangible results. His accomplishments include protections for tenants so that they can remain in their homes and for low-wage workers, including bodega owners, hair dressers, livery cab drivers and day care employees.

As a congressman, Espaillat will be a strong voice on immigration reform, the new health care law and other critical issues. We have no doubt that he will represent all of the district’s diverse communities very well.

Rangel has emphasized that he would will help defend President Obama’s agenda against Republican extremism. However, Rangel’s Democratic positions are similar to Espaillat’s on issues ranging from the economy to immigration, health care and foreign policy. It’s time to pass the baton.

On June 26, we strongly urge voters to head to the polls and cast a decisive vote for Adriano Espaillat.