- Associated Press - Wednesday, June 11, 2014

NEW YORK (AP) - A debate Wednesday night between Rep. Charles Rangel and two candidates looking to replace him in Washington largely stayed away from the issues of racial divides and ethnic campaigning that had been the flashpoint of a previous meeting, but had several moments of contention as the three men sparred over their qualifications to represent New York’s 13th Congressional District.

Rangel, who turned 84 on Wednesday, faced state Sen. Adriano Espaillat, who would be the first Dominican-born member of Congress if elected, and Harlem minister Michael Walrond at the debate at Lehman College in the Bronx. The event was put on by Time Warner Cable News NY1 and NY1 Noticias.

The candidates answered questions on a range of issues from housing to education, taking shots at each other along the way.

Answering a question about income levels and rent-stabilized apartments, Espaillat made a reference to Rangel getting into an ethics scandal in part over his usage of such apartments.

“You shouldn’t be able to take two or three rent-stabilized apartments and merge them into one,” Espaillat said to audience applause.

He added, “Certainly, 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.”

Rangel, running for his 23rd term, highlighted his experience.

“I don’t really think this is the time for trainees, no matter how passionate they are, to be going to the United States House of Representatives,” Rangel said.

Walrond faulted both men for not doing enough as elected officials, and said he would be the visionary leader the district needed.

“Change is used too loosely by people who don’t embody it,” he said.

The candidates were given a chance to revisit the racial divide issue from the last debate, when Rangel said Espaillat was running because the district was increasingly Latino.

Espaillat said it wasn’t about race and ethnicity, that the issues facing the district affected everyone.

Rangel once again made reference to a flier Espailllat put out in 2012, criticizing a Dominican official who had not supported him.

The debate did have its lighter moments, including one where the candidates were asked if they had ever ridden in a horse-drawn carriage.

“Have I ever raced one?” Rangel asked. “No, I admit I’m old . we had cars then.”

The primary is June 24. In such a heavily Democratic city, the winner is widely expected to win the general election in November.

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