NEW YORK — State Sen. Adriano Espaillat announced his campaign for Congress Thursday afternoon, presenting himself as a unifiying voice in northern Manhattan while setting the stage for a tense showdown with incumbent Rep. Charles Rangel for New York's 13th congressional district seat.
Espaillat, speaking to reporters and supports at a noon news conference at the United Palace, kicked off a three-day campaign tour of the district by appealing to common issues faced by all voters — regardless of race or ethnicity.
Ethnic pride has its place, but this is a district that has common issues across ethnic, religious, and gender lines,” Espaillat said. “When you rent goes up, it doesn’t matter whether you’re latino or black or white."
“We cannot fight them alone. We need one voice in Washington," Espaillat added. "That’s what’s lacking in this district, and that’s why I’m running for congress.”
Espaillat, 59, suffered a narrow defeat to Rangel in 2012. This go-round, the Washington Heights Democrat, seen by many as the strongest challenger to the 22-term Harlem congressman, vowed to work hard to and knock on every door.
“I’ll come back here on June 25 and I’ll be twenty pounds lighter and I’ll have run through three pairs of shoes,” he said.
Rangel, 83, announced his re-election bid in December, telling reporters he felt healthy and expected an easy path back to Washington.
"It's not going to be a difficult election at all," Rangel said at the time.
While Rangel — nicknamed the "Lion of Lenox Avenue" — has made a name for himself representing Harlem, his 13th district now includes primarily Hispanic neighborhoods where the Dominican-American Espaillat has support.
Rangel has also been buffeted by his 2010 censure in the House due to ethics violations. Critics have said it's time for Rangel to step aside, a message Espaillat echoed on Thursday.
"The people want to see change, they want to see new, fresh ideas that will lead us in the right direction,” he said.
Espaillat is already amassing endorsements for his bid.
The Barack Obama Democratic Club of Upper Manhattan voted to support Espaillat Wednesday night, and the New York Daily News reported that City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito plans to announce support for Espaillat on Thursday.