New York Primary: What to Watch

U.S. Rep. Charlie Rangel (D-NY) meets with constituents while campaigning in New York's 13th District on June 23, 2014 in the Harlem neighborhood of New York City.

Photograph by Andrew Burton/Getty Images

U.S. Rep. Charlie Rangel (D-NY) meets with constituents while campaigning in New York’s 13th District on June 23, 2014 in the Harlem neighborhood of New York City.

Rep. Charlie Rangel finds out today if Democratic voters in his Manhattan-and-Bronx district will grant him a 23rd House term.

Rangel, a former chairman of the tax-writing Ways and Means Committee, faces state Sen. Adriano Espaillat in a rematch of a 2012 primary that Rangel won by just 2.5 percentage points.

Rangel, who was elected to the House in 1970 after unseating a Democratic incumbent, has served in the House longer than all but 12 people in history. The only person with more House service who was defeated for re-election was another New York City Democrat, Emanuel Celler, whose 50-year career ended in a 1972 primary loss to Elizabeth Holtzman. Celler was 84 years old at the time of his loss, the same age Rangel is now.

Rangel’s supporters include former President Bill Clinton, Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and members of the Congressional Black Caucus.

The New York Times editorial page endorsed Espaillat on June 18, noting Rangel’s “humiliating censure” by the House in December 2010 for “failing to pay taxes and other ethical lapses.” 

The district, numbered the 13th, includes parts of northern Manhattan and the Bronx. The Manhattan section of the district, which takes in Harlem and parts of the Upper West Side, cast about 88 percent of the district vote in the 2012 primary; Rangel won there by about 3.5 percentage points. In the 13th’s share of the Bronx, Espaillat beat Rangel by about four points.

Rangel and Espaillat will share the Democratic ballot with minister Michael A. Waldrond, Jr., and Yolanda Garcia, a community activist.

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There are three Republican primaries in New York worth watching, all of which have seen the intervention of super-political action committees that can raise funds in unlimited amounts.

In the 22nd District, which includes Utica and Binghamton, two-term Republican Rep. Richard Hanna is opposed in the primary by state Assemblywoman Claudia Tenney, who says the incumbent is too liberal.

Tenney has compared herself to David Brat, the Virginia economics professor who unseated Majority Leader Eric Cantor in a primary earlier this month. Conservative talk-radio hosts Laura Ingraham and Sean Hannity have promoted Tenney, who also won an endorsement from the Tea Party Patriots Citizen Fund on June 20, four days before the primary.

Hanna’s backers include the Chamber of Commerce and American Unity PAC, a super-PAC that New York billionaire Paul Singer founded in 2012 to urge Republicans to support same-sex marriage. Hanna supports same-sex unions and supports legislation that would prohibit employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. In 2013, Hanna was among six Republicans who voted against a bill that would have banned abortions past 20 weeks of pregnancy.

Fiscal issues have dominated the issue discussion rather than gay marriage or abortion, though. American Unity PAC’s ads have criticized Tenney’s voting record on budget and tax policy in the New York Assembly, where she was sometimes in a small minority of Republicans voting against the positions of most of her colleagues.

The super-PAC’s most recent ad features former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani praising Hanna as a “proven fiscal conservative” who’s voted for spending cuts and against President Barack Obama’s health-care law.

A second super-PAC, Patriot Prosperity PAC, also paid for ads attacking Tenney on some budget and tax votes.

“I’ve never even voted for a tax increase; it’s anathema to my core principles,” Tenney said on Ingraham’s program yesterday. “It’s just insane; it’s just relentless, relentless attacks.” 

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In the 21st District, which takes up more than 15,000 square miles in northern New York, the Republican contestants are Elise Stefanik, a former aide in George W. Bush’s White House, and Matt Doheny, an investment banker seeking the seat for the third time after narrow losses in 2010 and 2012.

American Crossroads, the Republican super-PAC advised by former Bush political adviser Karl Rove, has spent more than $772,000 to promote Stefanik and oppose Doheny.

A second super-PAC, New York 2014, has spent more than $378,000 independently aiding Stefanik’s campaign. The PAC’s donors include Singer, who also gave $1 million last month to American Crossroads, and Ken Griffin, who leads the Chicago-based investment firm Citadel LLC.

Stefanik, 29, is a “new-generation conservative,” according to an ad from the New York 2014 super-PAC. Doheny says Stefanik is a “D.C. insider.”

 

Democrat Bill Owens isn’t seeking re-election in the 21st, a politically competitive district that’s one of the Republican Party’s best opportunities to win a Democratic-held seat in the November election. The Democratic nominee is Aaron Woolf.

In the 1st District, which takes in the Hamptons and other areas of eastern Long Island, state Sen. Lee Zeldin and George Demos are seeking to oppose six-term Democrat Tim Bishop.

Zeldin is the preferred candidate of House Speaker John Boehner and the New York state Republican organization. Demos, a former Securities and Exchange Commission prosecutor, is backed by Giuliani and former New York Gov. George Pataki.

The super-PAC Americans for Common Sense spent more than $1.3 million on the race, some of it on an ad on New York City broadcast television linking Zeldin to polluters. The super-PAC is funded by Demos’s father-in-law, Angelo Tsakopoulos, a California real-estate developer who’s given most of his campaign donations to Democrats.

New York polls close at 9 p.m. Eastern Time.

 

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