NEW YORK – The race to succeed retiring Congressman Charles Rangel in New York’s 13th congressional district is heating up ahead of the June 28 crowded Democratic primary.
On Thursday, Councilman Mark Levine, a supporter of State Senator Adriano Espaillat, accused Assemblyman Keith Wright of “peddling” anti-Semitism in reaching out to Dominican voters in the district.
Levine was referring to Wright tweeting – four times in a matter of hours – a link to an article in a Spanish publication accusing his chief rival of insulting his Dominican community in the district by endorsing Levine, who’s Jewish, in the 2013 race for City Council.
The district includes a sizeable portion of the uptown Manhattan Jewish community, including Yeshiva University. According to recent data, five percent of the district’s population is Jewish.
“In 2013, he did not support the community leader Luis Tejada for a seat on the City Council for the 7th district and supported the ‘Jew’ Mark Levin, among other slights the Dominicans remember,” the article linked in Wright’s tweets reads.
“I’ve come to expect this kind of ugly rhetoric from the gutters of New York politics. Shame on Assemblyman Wright for peddling it,” Councilman Levine, who is also the chairman of the Council’s Jewish Caucus, told Jewish Insider.
Espaillat recently touted the district’s “wonderful multiculturalism” in bridging diverse communities after a 20-year-old Yeshiva student was threatened for wearing a yarmulke at a local Dunkin’ Donuts store.
The Espaillat campaign called on Wright to delete all of the tweets and social media posts linking to the offensive article. “This kind of divisive, gutter politics has no place in the campaign,” Tyrone Stevens, a spokesman for the Espaillat campaign, said in a statement. “Keith Wright should immediately remove these posts from all of his social media accounts.”
Hank Sheinkopf, a spokesman for the Wright campaign, rejected the charge as “nonsense,” since the story was not written by the Wright campaign. If Levine feels offended by the article, he should take issue with the publication, he suggested.
“It’s absolutely absurd,” Sheinkopf told Jewish Insider. “Espaillat will do anything to hide his record of taking campaign contributions from people who abuse workers, of not showing up to work. This is just an attempt to find another way to avoid answering questions about his own campaign and his own activities.”
UPDATED Friday 06-17-16: Assemblyman Keith Wright told Jewish Insider that the staffer who tweeted the article “violated protocol” and the incident is being handled by the campaign “in a very swift and appropriate manner.”
“I don’t tolerate any, any sort of bigotry or anti-Semitism,” Wright said in an interview. “A lot of this is being used for political purposes.”
The Democratic primary will take place on June 28. Besides Wright and Espaillat, candidates running in the primary include former White House aide Clyde Williams, Assemblyman Guillermo Linares, former Assemblyman Adam Clayton Powell IV, former Ambassador Suzan Johnson Cook and Mike Gallagher.
This post was updated to include Mr. Wright’s response