Less than 30 miles from the Connecticut border, the country’s spotlight Black vs. Brown political race finally came to a conclusion almost two weeks after the polls had closed.
Although the results will not be certified as official until later this week, N.Y. state Sen. Adriano Espaillat, a Dominican American, came within 1000 votes of unseating 21-term incumbent U.S. Rep. Charles Rangel, in one of the most surprising primary contests of 2012. Though the primary for the right to represent Harlem as the Democratic congressional nominee actually occurred on June 26, several hundred paper ballots had to be counted. The Espaillat campaign had charged the Rangel campaign with voter suppression, an accusation the Rangel camp has strongly denied. Late Monday, Espaillat conceded the race to Rangel, and dropped a threat of a vote fraud lawsuit against the veteran Congressman.
One of the most interesting aspects of the Espaillat-Rangel battle is that it reveals political divisions among traditionally close politically aligned groups. As Latinos and African Americans often live side by side in large urban centers and suburban clusters, the notion of the “rainbow coalition” suggests the two groups would be natural political allies but now the Black vs. Brown political divide is increasing.
Both African Americans and Latinos (with the exception of Cuban Americans) tend to vote Democratic in large percentages. Yet, as the number of Latinos has increased dramatically over the last decade, competition over power and resources has many African Americans now viewing Latinos as a threat to their social, economic, and political gains.
At the same time, Latinos do not view African Americans as an oppressed group “entitled” to a greater share of the political pie. For example, although blacks make up about 10% of the Los Angeles population, they account for 37% of city and county employees – figures almost exactly reversed for Latinos. Not surprisingly, Latinos in Los Angeles are fighting for their fair share of government jobs.
Interestingly, the Espaillat-Rangel race does not break down neatly along “black vs. brown” lines. Many of Rangel’s key political supporters are Puerto Rican. In a similar race in Texas, popular African American incumbent Marc Veasey faces a runoff later this month with Domingo García for a north Texas congressional district. Though García would be the first Latino elected to Congress from North Texas, Veasey, has received the endorsement of many elected officials in the Mexican American Legislative Caucus.