With an embrace Thursday in front of a storied Harlem haunt for politicians and a coalition of black, white and Latino leaders, Rep. Charles Rangel congratulated and handed the torch to State Sen. Adriano Espaillat, who will replace Rangel in Congress.
Espaillat, who will be the first Dominican-born congressman, beat state Assemb. Keith Wright, who was Rangel’s pick as a successor.
Wright conceded the race Thursday, two days after the Democratic primary in a meeting with Espaillat at Sylvia’s soul food restaurant.
“We’ve left it all on the battlefield, and certainly, now, it’s time to come together,” said Wright, who lost to Espaillat by 1,200 votes. “I want him to be successful. We all need him to be successful. ... We are one community.”
The theme of unity across the diverse district encompassing upper Manhattan and the southwest Bronx was echoed by Rangel and Espaillat in a joint news conference.
Several political allies from both sides of the heated election were assembled behind them, including state Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie and City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito.
Espaillat, 61, arrived without documentation to the United States and went to to be a vocal advocate in Albany for tenants’ and farmworkers’ rights. The 13th Congressional District has a burgeoning Latino population.
Espaillat’s challenges are expected to include protection of longtime residents from gentrification, improving education in poorer neighborhoods and combating gang violence, officials at the event said.
“That’s what America’s all about, that’s what change is all about,” Rangel said of Espaillat’s win in a district where power is shifting from historically black Harlem to Washington Heights, which is predominantly Dominican-American. “And the most important thing is that we ... work together.”
Espaillat vowed to represent every community in the district.
“It’s going to take all of us collectively, all of our talents ... all of our energy, our drive to be brought to the table, because this is a very special district,” said Espaillat. “It drives the soul of the nation.”
Rangel, 86, a member of the Harlem Four black political machine with David Dinkins and the late Basil Patterson and Percy Sutton, will retire in December after 23 terms.