NEW YORK—State Sen. Adriano Espaillat was cheerful when he greeted journalists outside of an Inwood polling station Tuesday morning, the day of the election in his congressional primary race against incumbent Charles Rangel.
“This is an important vote, to break from the past, to turn the page, to write a new chapter in the history of this district,” he said. “I believe this election will reshape New York City and New York State politics if not the nation.”
He had just cast a vote for himself moments earlier, coming to the poll station with an entourage that stretched 4 generations—his mother, his son, and 4-month-old grandson, Ulysses.
Focusing on the broader view, Espaillat stressed how this election embodied the American Dream.
“I am the grandson and the son of immigrants. I’m an immigrant myself. I came to this country with no papers, and now, look at all of you, you’re covering this race for me to become a member of Congress,” he told the crowd, as supporters waved to him from their apartment windows.
Inwood is a neighborhood in upper Manhattan that is considered a part of Espaillat’s base, and many of his supporters were to be found there on Tuesday.
Hilda Minier is a 62-year-old immigrant from the Dominican Republic who cast her ballot for Espaillat at the Inwood poll station.
“We need someone to represent my people,” she said, explaining why she voted for Espaillat.
If elected, Espaillat would become the first Congressman born in the Dominican Republic.
Throughout his campaign, Espaillat has portrayed Rangel as being out of touch with his own district, a sentiment that has driven some voters away from Rangel.
“I’ve never even seen Charlie Rangel, ever. I don’t know who he is,” said Ayumi Tomaru, who also cast her vote at Inwood. “He doesn’t care about us up here.”
Tomaru has a young autistic son who goes to a special needs school. She voted for Espaillat because she thinks he’ll fight for the interests of the local community.
“I think that it’s time for somebody who really understands the community and cares about the children here, our families, our future,” she said.
“He has a family here,” she added.