U.S. Rep. Charlie Rangel and state Sen. Adriano Espaillat rehashed their rivalry on Wednesday while the upstart reverend who would defeat them both played straight man to taunts throughout the night.
Rangel and Espaillat continued to litigate their records at the last debate between the June 26 primary to represent the congressional district largely within Harlem. The senator again asked for change while the longtime congressman made his case for consistency.
"I don’t really think this is the time for trainees, no matter how passionate they are, to be going to the United States House of Representatives," said Rangel, who was celebrating his 84th birthday at the debate hosted by NY1.
Rangel targeted Espaillat and tried to paint the two-term senator as inexperienced in the ways of Washington. When Espaillat questioned Rangel's support for the Dodd-Frank Act for Wall Street reform, Rangel jabbed back.
"Do you know who Frank is?" he asked Espaillat, who stammered that he did.
Rangel's bluntness got in him hot water at the last debate, when he questioned Espaillat's record "besides saying he's a Dominican" in a district that has seen a significant increase in Latino residents over the years.
Given the opportunity to set the record straight on the political rhetoric on race between the campaigns, Espaillat said he does and would focus on the issues that affect all residents regardless of ethnicity and blaming the divisive rhetoric on others.
"They would like to relive the West Side Story," Espaillat quipped, "you know — the Sharks versus the Jets."
Meanwhile, long-shot candidate the Rev. Michael Walrond said both his rivals were guilty of stoking racial politics in the race.
"We need a visionary in this position," he said to loud applause, "not persons who are participating in divisiveness or pettiness in debates."
Follow Chester Jesus Soria on Twitter@chestersoria