The Rev. Al Sharpton weighed in on Rep. Charles Rangel's heated congressional campaign Saturday, telling the candidates to cool it. NY1's Michael Scotto filed the following report.
No stranger to racial politics, the Rev. Al Sharpton issued a stern warning Saturday to the candidates running in the 13th congressional district.
"The one that saves the community and brings us together ought to be the congressman. The one that divides us has forfeited the right and ought not be in the race," Sharpton said.
Sharpton didn't name names, but his comments came one day after Rep. Charles Rangel made controversial comments about his main rival, state Senator Adriano Espaillat, during a televised debate.
"Just what the heck has he done besides saying he's a Dominican?" Rangel asked.
The remark set off a firestorm and on Saturday, Rangel and Espaillat appeared at Sharpton's National Action Network, though not at the same time.
The third main candidate in the race, Pastor Michael Walrond, was also there.
Espaillat echoed Sharpton's appeal.
"I think this is what should drive this race: issues. Not bickering, not finger pointing, and definitely not race baiting," Espaillat said.
Rangel agreed that the campaign should only be about qualifications before suggesting that the media are responsible for injecting race into the discussion.
"It's the newspapers that have brought this thing to talk about race, not me," Rangel said.
Surrogates for Rangel's campaign, however, were still trying to make race an issue by again bringing up a flyer from two years ago in which Espaillat claims a Domincan Rangel supporter "betrayed us."
"I think the simplest way for us to move beyond this issue is for the senator to admit it, own up to it and move on," said Charlie King, Rangel's campaign adviser.
Whether race continues to be an issue in this campaign remains to be seen.
The three candidates are scheduled to debate again next Wednesday on NY1.