Mayor de Blasio Won't Endorse Candidate in Rangel Primary Battle
"No," was all the mayor said when asked Monday whether he would lend his support to any of the candidates — including Rangel or opponent state Sen. Adriano Espaillat, who appeared with him at a Monday press conference on affordable housing.
"I know the three leading candidates very well. I've worked with all of them and I think there's times, especially in the context of the Democratic primary, where you say it's not a particularly appropriate place to get involved for a variety of reasons," de Blasio later explained on a follow up question, on the heels of a round of banter and laughs with Espaillat, who stood on the opposite side of the stage from Rangel.
"I had to make the baseline decision that I think I should be involved and I came to the conclusion that I should not be and we'll obviously know in two weeks who the Democratic nominee is and at that time I'll support the Democratic nominee," the mayor added.
Rangel, seeking his 23rd term in Congress, received the endorsement of former Mayor Michael Bloomberg in 2012 during his tough primary against Espaillat, who is running again. Also in the race are the Rev. Michael Walrond and Yolonda Garcia.
Both the Rangel and Espaillat camps declined to comment about de Blasio's decision.
Political consultant Basil Smikle said de Blasio's non-endorsement makes sense given the political realities in Upper Manhattan and the fact that many believe the primary will be close.
"De Blasio has had a very long relationship with Harlem and Rangel, but the Latino community is really growing in political power, especially in northern Manhattan," said Smikle. "They both are constituencies — especially since de Blasio put much political capital into having Melissa (Mark-Viverito) as speaker — that are too important for him to upset one over the other."
A New York Times, NY1 and Siena College poll from May showed Rangel with a 9 point lead over Espaillat.
But Rangel could take the non-endorsement as a slap in the face.
"Most people believe Rangel would expect that endorsement and want it,'" Smikle said.