The contentious Democratic primary in Harlem between U.S. Rep. Charles Rangel, D-N.Y., and New York state Sen. Adriano Espaillat is turning into a contest for who has more hip-hop cred.
This weekend, just days before Tuesday’s primary election, Rangel unveiled a “Vote for Rangel” rap on YouTube made by Fireboy LD (real name Londel Davis III) that informs voters about Rangel’s biography, including his Harlem roots and military service.
Not to be outdone, Espaillat paid $7,000 in March to the “Rappin Fireman.” Espaillat’s campaign could not be immediately reached about the payments, of which $2,000 was earmarked for consulting services to the campaign, according to Federal Election Commission records. The purpose for the other $5,000 was not listed by the campaign.
The “Rappin Fireman” appears to be John Ruiz, an East Harlem firefighter who raps about fire safety to children, according to an Internet search.
“Recognizing that fire deaths among children was escalating, John Ruiz, aka ‘the Rappin’ Fireman,’ established one of the most popular fire safety and prevention programs in the country entitled "‘The Rappin’ Fireman and His Safety Friends,’" reads a cached version of the website. “Utilizing personal finances, he drew a pension loan and purchased a fire truck, a robot and puppets. His decision to incorporate rap music into his fire safety program proved to be a great success and attendees would look forward to having an exciting educational experience.”
The payments to the “Rappin Fireman” were first noticed Tuesday by former U.S. Rep. Anthony Weiner.
I already know who won #ny13. Some cat called "Rappin Fireman". His buddy Petty Cash did ok as well.
— Anthony Weiner (@anthonyweiner) June 24, 2014
The race between Rangel and Espaillat is expected to be close. The state senator came within 1,000 votes of unseating the longtime incumbent four years ago. The district, which encompasses Harlem, Washington Heights and parts of the Bronx, is becoming increasingly Hispanic -- a demographic that the Dominican-born Espaillat is trying to take advantage of.
Whatever the outcome, either Rangel or Espaillat are all but assured of heading to Washington, as the district is reliably Democratic. Nearly 95 percent of voters turned out for President Barack Obama in 2012. Obama isn’t taking sides in the primary.