Rangel lobs race-based attacks at foe
© Greg Nash

Rep. Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.) accused his Democratic primary challenger, state Sen. Adriano EspaillatAdriano de Jesus Espaillat CabralLawmakers worry about rise of fake video technology Left fears Democrats will give too much on immigration Trump’s border wall becomes flashpoint in shutdown fight MORE, of running a race based solely on his Dominican heritage.

“What the heck has he done, besides saying he’s a Dominican?” Rangel said in one of his first attacks in a heated debate on Friday.

“He wants to be the Jackie Robinson of the Dominicans in the Congress,” Rangel added, according to the New York Times

“The fact is that Jackie Robinson was a star before he reached the major leagues, and he’s not a Jackie Robinson.”

The two are facing off, along with Rev. Michael Walrond, in a nasty primary fight for the district. 

Espaillat, who came within about 1,000 votes of defeating Rangel in a primary last cycle, has charged the 22-term congressman has been in office for too long. He’s believed to have a better shot at defeating the congressman this time around.

New York’s 13th district became more hispanic after redistricting, and Espaillat has this cycle picked off a number of hispanic endorsements from Rangel. 

Rangel has, however, nabbed a number of big-name endorsements himself, including former President Bill Clinton. But one major Democrat,  President Obama, is sitting the primary fight out, as the two have had a frosty relationship since their time in Congress together.

Meanwhile, Rangel has charged Espaillat has little to show in his record as state senator, and during the debate accused him of not having done “a darn thing” to raise the minimum wage.

Espaillat said he’s passed “over 70 pieces of legisation in Albany.”

In his attack, Rangel pointed to a mailer he said was sent by Espaillat’s team accusing a Dominican supporter of Rangel’s for being a traitor for sticking by him.

“I would ask you: Do you believe that someone that has a Dominican background, if they don’t support you, would be a traitor?” Rangel asked.

But Espaillat hit back.

“You’re the one framing this debate along racial and ethnic lines. To come here and spew division in front of the city and the state is not becoming of you or your title as a congressman,” he said. “I am deeply disappointed in you today, Congressman.”