Written by R. Abreu


Tuesday|June 28|2016

Today, June 28th, our beloved Bronx, along with Washington Heights and Harlem will bare witness to a historic moment. United States Congressman Charles Rangel will retire this year, vacating a seat he has held strongly since 1971. After more than forty years on the job, Congressman Rangel’s retirement leaves open a Congressional seat surely to be filled by the Democratic nominee at this November’s general election (also known as ‘Clinton v. Trump’ day).

If your Congressperson is Charles Rangel, you my friend, are a resident of the illustrious District 13 (cue The Hunger Games soundtrack). If you live within District 13, and are registered to vote, then June 28th is a big day for you. It is your chance to choose who will go to Washington, D.C. and represent YOU. You’re the Board Member. The Congressperson is your CEO; you can hire and fire every two years. Don’t take this power for granted. If you are not sure who your current Congressperson is, you can input your zip code HERE and find out.

A BRIEF HISTORY. In 1970, a much younger Charles Rangel ran in the Democratic primary against long-time Congressman Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Rangel defeated Powell Jr. by 150 votes and dethroned the incumbent. Jump forward 46 years, and Adam Clayton Powell III is running in the Democratic primary to gain control of the seat his father held for so long before Rangel. But Powell III is not alone in this race.

A total of eight democrats are on the ballot. Along with Powell III, voters have the choice of Keith Wright, Suzan Cook, Mike Gallagher, Sam Sloan, Clyde Williams, Guillermo Linares, and Adriano Espaillat. To be frank, four of the candidates have run campaigns that appear to have gained traction amongst the voting public (Powel III, Wright, Linares, Espaillat); and if we’re keeping it real, only two candidates have a realistic shot at winning (Wright and Espaillat).

I say either Espaillat or Wright is likely to win because of the size of their grassroots campaigns and the endorsements both men received. Espaillat garnered support from the NY Daily News, El Diario, the Transport Workers Union (TWU), New York City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, New York City Councilman Ydanis Rodriguez, and U.S. Congressman Luis Gutierrez among others. On the other hand, Congressman Rangel, U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr, former Governor David Paterson, and Queens Borough President Melinda Katz all endorse Wright.

This election shines a spotlight on two communities; the black community of Harlem and the Dominican community of Washington Heights. It is interesting to note that Wright and Powel III are two black politicians vying for the majority of the Harlem vote, while Espaillat and Linares are two Dominican politicians vying for the majority of the Washington Heights vote. When it is all said and done, how will the chips fall? Who will syphon more votes away from their counterpart?

WELCOME TO THE BRONX. The west Bronx can decide this election. The blue portion of the map below shows which Bronx communities are within District 13. The large number of registered voters in the Bronx’s 13th District coupled with the likelihood of a close election yields the perfect storm of power and responsibility upon us.

District 13_BX

Yes, to millennials both candidates have a platform that leaves much to be desired. But as established politicians, is this anything that surprises us anymore? Nevertheless, both men raise issues that are important to our communities. Keith Wright says he will be a “champion for LGBT issues and would join the Equality Caucus as an ally to work with other leaders in Congress on LGBT priorities.� Adriano Espaillat, a noted champion of housing rights in upper Manhattan vows to establish and maintain affordable housing units and will “take immediate action to protect residents who are at risk of being displaced.� Both men offer platforms that address the criminal justice system, gun safety, and economic development as well.

Personally, I think gentrification has displaced hundreds of thousands of working class people from their homes all over the United States, and our politicians rarely discuss the issue. The displaced are primarily low-income and of color, especially in New York City. I appreciate Espaillat’s call for greater housing protections. I also applaud Wright’s call for greater awareness of LGBT inequality, which still persists in all corners of the United States.

No matter who you think is best fit to serve as your representative in  Congress, it is your right and obligation to make your voice heard. If you don’t support any candidate, go ahead and write in the name of the person you think would best represent your interests (‘Randy Abreu’ has a nice ring to it). Remember, your Congressperson works for you, and whoever wins will make about $174,000 a year to represent your wants, desires, and needs. Did I mention that salary is paid for by YOUR tax dollars? You are the Board of Directors, engage in your corporation and you’ll see progress like never before.