Veteran Congressman Charlie Rangel, drawn into a Latino-majority seat and facing a strong challenge from State Senator Adriano Espaillat, discussed his campaign on Gerson Borrero’s daily radio show this morning, speaking in English as Mr. Borrero translated into Spanish. Mr. Rangel’s campaign in the past has stressed their support among Puerto Rican elected officials (Mr. Espaillat is Dominican), and today’s show represents continuing outreach on their part to the community.
“I have been a friend of Puerto Rico and I’ve looked out for Puerto Rico, but I’ve been a friend of the United States of America and Puerto Rico has been looked down upon as a second-class citizen,” Mr. Rangel said at one point of the interview, emphasizing that the island isn’t a separate country.
He also touted his relationship with Puerto Rico’s non-voting representative in the U.S. Congress, past and present.
“Of course I do and he’s a fine man,” Mr. Rangel responded when asked if he knew the current representative, Resident Commissioner Pedro Pierluisi. “I have worked with every governor we have had in Puerto Rico and every resident commissioner. But they don’t vote. They are good people, but they can’t vote.”
The impact of their lack of a formal vote, Mr. Rangel said, combined with Republican control of the U.S. House of Representatives, is destructive to the island, but he stated the discussion over Puerto Rico’s status is distracting.
“Instead of people talking about the status of Puerto Rico, as to whether they should become a state, we should all be screaming about the quality of life of people who have fought and died for our country,” he said. “When it comes time for services they get knocked off the budget.”
Mr. Rangel also took time to address Mr. Espaillat’s candidacy during the start of the interview, which he interestingly described as both “unfortunate” and “what our great country is all about.”
“Unfortunately, at this time, to the surprise of everybody, one of the younger office holders has decided lately that he wanted to run,” he explained. “I’ve supported him for every office he’s ran for in the community and within the Congressional District. But that’s what our great country is all about Gerson, it’s not there for people to get elected to and die into office. It’s there for people to say, ‘Hey I think I could do better!’”
Left unsaid in the interview were Mr. Rangel’s other opponents: former DNC political director Clyde Williams, businesswoman Joyce Johnson and his ex-intern Craig Schley.