'surface issues'

Off Message?

This morning, Adriano Espaillat’s congressional campaign posted a videohighlighting their endorsement from Vincent Morgan, a former aide to Charlie Rangel, the incumbent they’re trying to oust. In the video, Morgan seems to make a slightly different pitch than the campaign generally has to this point, suggesting that voters are looking beyond “surface issues, like our race and socioeconomic standing.”

If there’s one major theme of Espaillat’s congressional campaign, it’s that his candidacy represents a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to put a Dominican-American in Congress, an achievement that is overdue.

Also, try telling some other Espaillat supporters, like Councilman Ydanis Rodriguez (who is an outspoken ally of the Occupy Wall Street movement) that voters are looking past socioeconomic issues this year.

From my story:

Adriano Espaillat is preparing for nuclear war with Charlie Rangel. The only question is whether he’ll push the button.

A spokesman for State Senator Adriano Espaillat confirmed a report they are circulating petitions to get on the ballot and unseat the 21-term congressman, who is an iconic figure in black politics and founding member of the Black Congressional Caucus.

Rangel, 81, is currently suffeing from back problems that forced him to miss votes in Congress. He’s also drawn a number of challengers this year, including former aide Vince Morgan, businesswoman Joyce Johnson, and, possibly, presidential aide Clyde Williams.

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Espaillat had called for creating a majority-Latino congressional district next to Rangel’s, and warned that if it didn’t happen, there could be clash between Latinos and blacks.

Speaking to a mostly black audience on 145th Street last weekend, Espaillat, who is Dominican, said, “They increased the Latino population in Charlie Rangel’s existing district to 55 percent, basically setting the ground work of 20 years of nuclear political war.”

My story:

State Senator Adriano Espaillat of Washington Heights told the crowd about two practices that disenfranchise minorities during redistricting: “packing,” which crams minority voters into one district to limit their influence, and “cracking” which divides ethnic strongholds into many districts, ensuring they can’t unify behind any one candidate.

"So these crackers, that are here today," Espaillat said, to cheers from the crowd, "still around, crackers, that are here today, cracking districts all over the city of New York, cracking here and cracking there."