HARLEM — Former President Bill Clinton endorsed incumbent Rep. Charles Rangel Wednesday in his bid for a 23rd term.
"I'm happy to endorse my good friend Charlie Rangel for Congress," Clinton said in a statement. "Charlie has been a champion of more good jobs, successful small businesses, and strong families for more than 40 years. That's what his district and our country need now."
Rangel has a long history with the Clintons. He is credited with encouraging Hillary Clinton to run for the U.S. Senate from New York and later endorsed her during the 2008 Democratic presidential primary over Barack Obama.
"It is an honor to be endorsed by my friend and long-time colleague in Washington and in Harlem, President Bill Clinton, one the finest leaders in our nation’s history," Rangel said in a statement.
"President Clinton’s bold leadership created an era of real economic growth and positive change in the lives of New Yorkers and all Americans. We share a progressive vision of creating a New York that’s more affordable and equitable for everyone," Rangel added.
Clinton's endorsement is the latest in a round of back and forth endorsement battle between Rangel and state Sen. Adriano Espaillat — who is hoping to best the veteran legislator in the June 24 Democratic primary. The Rev. Michael Walrond and community activist Yolanda Garcia are also vying for the seat in the same race.
Espaillat has grabbed endorsements from City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz and the Bronx Democratic Party. On Wednesday, city Comptroller Scott Stringer backed Espaillat.
A spokeswoman for Walrond dismissed the backing Rangel and Espaillat have received thus far as insignificant come primary election day.
"We have been endorsed by thousands of people in New York's 13th congressional district and that's who our focus is on," said Walrond spokeswoman Linara Davidson.
Political consultant Basil Smikle said Rangel's and Espaillat's endorsements show the type of campaigns they are trying to run.
"Rangel's endorsements represent the relationships that he's had in New York and Washington, the longevity and the benefits he believes he's been able to deliver for the state," said Smikle.
During a recent debate, Rangel emphasized his relationship and ability to work with President Obama as one of the main reasons he should be re-elected.
"Espaillat's endorsements are meant to convey his ability to represent new coalitions and a new generation of political leadership in Upper Manhattan," added Smikle.
Espaillat's camp criticized Rangel's endorsements as being mostly from Washington insiders.
"We're proud of our broad coalition of support who will be on the ground with us every day through the election. Together we will send a strong united voice for the District to Congress, " said Espaillat spokeswoman Chelsea Connor.
Espaillat was less cordial on Geraldo Rivera's WABC talk show this morning saying that he'd "rather have the endorsement of President Obama.”
“I really love the Clintons,” he told WABC the New York Observer reported. “I’m a little bit disappointed they’re not on the side of change this time around.”
Ultimately, said Smikle, the election is going to come down to who has the strongest get out the vote campaign on primary day. Espaillat lost to Rangel by approximately 1,000 votes two years ago.
"The endorsements bring media attention but the candidates still have to get their core supporters out to the polls," he said.