The performances on the outdoor stage in the Bronx’s Fordham Plaza were rotating through styles. A solo singer belted out Puerto Rican ballads. A Mexican mariachi band plucked out tunes, decked out in full sombrero’d regalia.
All were just opening acts. The main event was advertised behind the musicians: a large banner, with the candidates smiling face, read—in English and Spanish—“Re-elect Congressman Rangel.”
The rally—attended by at least a hundred or so people—was held a section of the west Bronx, stretching from the banks of the Harlem River northwest over Fordham University, which has for years been part of Bronx Congressman Jose Serrano’s district.
Now, Serrano and other Bronx officials were trying to get the message out: this is Rangel territory now.
“To those folks that I represented for so many years in the state assembly and the Congress, this strip here that now belongs to the so-called Manhattan district, I ask you, in the same way you stood behind me, to stand with Charlie this Tuesday,” Serrano told supporters.
“Charlie Rangel is a special human being,” Serrano said, using the Latin pronunciation of “Ran-hill.” “And I'll tell you something: whenever the Bronx, whenever New York City, whenever our country has needed something, he has been there.”
The Bronx political all-stars that came to show their support—Serrano, Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz, Jr. and local Assemblyman Jose Rivera, among others—were nearly universally Latino, which makes it representative of the districts majority.
When Rangel took the stage, he spoke about the new political family created between his team from Harlem—Manhattan Democratic chair and Harlem-based Assemblyman Keith Wright was on hand—and the Bronx politicians surrounding him. His was a message of commonality and understanding.
“People talk about this being a new district. But in terms of the dreams and the aspirations of your brothers and sisters on the other side of the Hudson, our dreams for America are all the same,” Rangel said.
There’s good reason to highlight the things that are similar between the two communities. Rangel’s biggest challenge in tomorrow’s primary is a Dominican state senator Adriano Espaillat.
It’s possible that tomorrow’s margin of victory for either candidate could come from the Bronx. This helps explain why Rangel and others were making the case that’s better to go with the 82-year-old incumbent seeking his 22nd term in office than the man who would be the first Dominican elected to Congress.
We’ll find out tomorrow if it worked.