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Rangel, Challengers Clash in NY1 Debate

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Rep. Charles Rangel and the two men challenging for his congressional seat, state Senator Adriano Espaillat and the Rev. Michael Walrond, sparred Wednesday night in a final televised debate that aired on NY1. NY1's Josh Robin filed the following report.

On Wednesday night, Charles Rangel was defending the seat that's long been his.

State Senator Adriano Espaillat: What led you to believe that diluting bank reform with Dodd/Frank would help the economy? Why would you take that vote, back in 1999?
Rangel: Do you have any idea who Frank is?

He challenged his opponents, often zinger by zinger.

"This is a little sensitive, since I'm a statesman today. Having said that," he said at one point.

He called his opponents trainees, and he mocked Adriano Espaillat's claim that the state senator helped broker an immigration deal in the Dominican Republic.

"You would have saved the world a whole lot of problems if you had told me you were going to go down there and straighten it out yourself," Rangel said.

Espaillat was often guarded, but he pounced when the topic turned to whether those earning six-figure salaries should get rent-stabilized apartments, like Rangel does.

"If you're a member of Congress, you shouldn't merge your apartments and take it away from the regular population that needs rent-stabilized apartments," Espaillat said.

The third candidate, the Rev. Michael Walrond, may have been the crowd favorite at Lehman College in the Bronx. His main attack was that both Espaillat and Rangel have little to show for all their years in elected office.

"I think that if you participate in the brokenness in Albany and been a part of it, the likelihood is that you're going to participate in furthering the brokenness in D.C. in many ways," Walrond said.

Issue-wise, there was little disagreement. All said President Barack Obama should halt deportations of undocumented immigrants.

Racial differences among candidates didn't flare like it has before, but Rangel turned heads by essentially defending previous remarks. He had questioned if Espaillat was only stumping on his Dominican lineage.

On Wednesday, Rangel also surprised some when he gave conditional support for hydrofracking, the controversial natural gas extraction opposed by many, including his two opponents.

The debate fell on the congressman's 84th birthday. The real gift he wants won't be decided until primary day, June 24.

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