Linares and Espaillat May Split Latino Vote in Race to Replace Rangel

Geronimo Pinendel sold clothing out of his white tent next to the United Palace on West 175th Street and Broadway on a bustling commercial block in Washington Heights on a recent Tuesday afternoon. He was preoccupied with his sales pitch, but when the conversation turned to politics, he smiled.

Mr. Pinendel said he is proud to know that Guillermo Linares, a Dominican Democrat who has served Washington Heights for more than 20 years, is running in New York’s 13th Congressional District race.

“Linares is the man for this community,” said Mr. Pinendel, a 70-year-old Dominican from the Bronx.

But, Mr. Pinendel said, so is State Senator Adriano Espaillat, Mr. Linares’s opponent, who is also Dominican.

“For me, they are the same,” Mr. Pinendel said. “They are doing good in the community.”

Mr. Pinendel, like many other Dominican voters, illustrates the complexity of the Latino vote in the wake of the redrawing of district lines in 2012. It’s difficult for him and other voters from the Dominican Republic to look beyond the common bond of being a Dominican in New York City.

In 2012, the redistricting turned the 15th Congressional District into the 13th Congressional District and extended the district’s lines into the Bronx. The changes increased the Latino percentage of the district’s population from 46.1 percent to 55.1 percent, according to The New York Times.

But an unintended consequence of two Dominican candidates squaring off in this election is that they may end up splitting the Latino vote.

With Mr. Espaillat and Mr. Linares as two choices for a Dominican candidate, voters will have to base their decisions on more than race and ethnicity. A split Latino vote would benefit Keith Wright, the black New York State 70th District assemblyman whose endorsement by Representative Charles B. Rangel, the outgoing longtime congressman of the 13th District, is another advantage for him in the election.

Preby Colon, 50, a registered voter, is choosing the Dominican candidate who influenced his life — his fifth-grade teacher, Mr. Linares, who now serves as the New York State 72nd District assemblyman.

“He was one of the pioneers who wanted to make change,” Mr. Colon said. “I’m not going to vote for you because you’re Dominican. I got to see that you’re trying to make the community better.”

Mr. Colon said he is unsure about Mr. Espaillat’s agenda and about how Mr. Espaillat’s values and policies align with his own.

Angelo Falcón, the president of the National Institute for Latino Policy, an advocacy group based in New York, said each candidate’s visibility in the different neighborhoods making up the district is also a factor.

Mr. Linares “hasn’t been as visible in the community,” Mr. Falcón said. Even though he is the first Dominican to be elected to a major public office in the United States, “Mr. Espaillat has more of a political machine,” he said.

Mr. Falcón said Latino voters must develop a coalition — a difficult task because of the number of Latino residents who are of voting age but not citizens and who are therefore not eligible to vote.

In 2012, the voting-age population of the 13th Congressional District was 53 percent Latino. But only 46 percent of eligible voters were Latino, according to a report from the National Institute for Latino Policy.

African-Americans made up 27 percent of the voting-age population in the district in 2012. But 34 percent of eligible voters were black — one of the reasons the district has remained a stronghold of black political power.

That’s why Mr. Colon urges members not only of the Dominican community but also of the Latino community at large to become citizens so that they can be eligible to vote.

“Do what you got to do to get registered,” he said. “Minorities are just now getting that.”