MANHATTAN — Rep. Charles Rangel attacked State Sen. Adriano Espaillat in a debate Friday afternoon, saying his opponent's campaign for the 13th District Congressional seat was nothing more than an attempt to capitalize on the changing demographics of northern Manhattan and The Bronx.
"Just what the heck has he done except say he's a Dominican?" Rangel asked. "He wants to be the Jackie Robinson for the Dominicans in Congress. But Jackie Robinson was a star before the major leagues."
The hourlong debate was taped Friday afternoon at ABC's Midtown studios.
At one point, Rangel even even pulled out an iPad to started tapping away in response to criticism from Espaillat over his votes to roll back part of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street reform act.
"Nothing's more important than the record, and I just want to show him that the record is against him," Rangel replied when asked what he was doing.
Espaillat tried to avoid Rangel's racial attacks, chiding him for spewing "division," and then saying the congressman has not accomplished much since his 2010 censure for ethics violations.
"In the past four years since he had his problem, he's passed just one piece of legislation," Espaillat said.
Meanwhile, candidate Rev. Michael Walrond hammered both men for their "punitive combativeness" before saying the district needed fresh blood.
"Many people are weary of the rhetoric," Walrond said.
When they weren't attacking each other, the candidates managed to answer several policy questions.
Espaillat proposed building a tech center in Inwood that would work with New York-Presbyterian Hospital and Yeshiva University, while Rangel said he was in favor of training young people to repair the city's aging infrastructure, which the congressman said was to blame for the East Harlem explosion. Walrond spoke of increasing access to education.
Both Rangel and Walrond were in favor of decriminalizing marijuana, while Espiallat favored first approving medical marijuana before full legalization. All three candidates would support a Hillary Clinton presidential run in 2016.
But they differed on the issue of big-box stores.
Espaillat, who proposed sweeping reforms for small businesses Wednesday, said chains paid low wages and perpetuated a cycle of poverty, while Rangel said that the stores "are not a problem because they create jobs."
Friday's debate will be broadcast Sunday morning at 11 a.m.