Identity or Geography Politics: Takeaways from the Race to Replace Charlie Rangel

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Gary Axelrod (left) and Marlene Peralta (right) flank your correspondent.


Gary Axelrod (left) and Marlene Peralta (right) flank your correspondent.

There are two things you can say about pure identity politics: Number one, it does not always appeal to people’s better nature. Number Two, you tend to notice Number One more when it’s someone else’s ethnic identity that’s become a rallying cry. I imagine Dutch and German New Yorkers tsk-tsked a plenty when the first Assemblyman O’Malley and Councilman Sullivan (not to mention Officer McCarthy and Firefighter Gannon) were sworn in back in the days when, as the song goes, “New York was Irish.”

Was the race for the Democratic nomination to replace Rep. Charles Rangel, which culminated in a primary last week, something to tsk-tsk over? Identity politics certainly seemed to be a big factor, with black candidates vying to maintain a traditional African-American political perch, while two Latino hopefuls looked to make history by electing a Dominican-American to Congress.

But geography was also in the mix: This was the third cycle in which Rangel’s “Harlem” district included a huge chunk on territory not in Harlem at all but across the river in the central and west Bronx. And familiarity may also have played a role: A long list of candidates jumped into the race this year, but winner Adriano Espaillat had twice run against Rangel himself. He lost those 2012 and 2014 battles but won the war.

I joined host Gary Axelbank and former El Diario scribe Marlene Perlata, now a consultant with the political strategy group Progressive Cities, to chat about the CD13 results and other big news in New York politics. Watch.