Major Endorsements in Hand, Wright Cautiously Eyes Congress

One evening in April, seven candidates gathered at a cultural center in Harlem, offering their visions for the actions they would take while holding the House seat occupied for nearly 40 years by Representative Charles B. Rangel.

There was a former U.S. ambassador, a stay-at-home father and a state senator who had tried to win the seat twice before. And there was Keith L.T. Wright, an assemblyman who brings political skills developed over decades as a legislator as well as the backing of Mr. Rangel and other key Democrats.

  • Name: Keith L.T. Wright
  • Age: 61
  • Home Neighborhood: Central Harlem
  • Party Affiliation: Democrat
  • Current Office/Job: Assemblyman

Mr. Rangel has described Mr. Wright as solid and tested. David Dinkins, the former New York City mayor who was once Mr. Wright’s boss, has also backed him. Mr. Wright also landed the support of Senator Kirsten Gillibrand and received endorsements from the New York State United Teachers union and a local chapter of the Service Employees International Union.

There is no polling for the race, but the endorsements have made him one of the most visible and competitive candidates.

“I think we’ve worked hard to pull different aspects of the community together,” Mr. Wright said in a recent interview. But he was modest about his place in the race. “I do not consider myself the front-runner,” he said.

New York’s 13th Congressional District stretches beyond Harlem to the northern end of Manhattan and includes a slice of the Bronx. “It’s about representing all of the folks in the district,” Mr. Wright said. “I wouldn’t call it pressure. I would call it a huge responsibility.”

Mr. Wright has spent much of his life connected to public service in New York City. His father and brother served as State Supreme Court justices, and his mother was a principal in the public school system.

In the 1980s, he worked for Mr. Dinkins during his tenure as Manhattan borough president; when Mr. Dinkins was elected mayor, Mr. Wright moved to New York City Transit, where he was assistant director of government relations. In 1992, he won his first campaign, to represent the 70th Congressional District, a region covering Harlem, in the State Assembly.

He attracted attention in 2007 when he proposed that New York officially apologize for slavery. (The measure passed in the State Assembly, but it didn’t advance in the Senate.)

Mr. Wright has served as the chairman of the Assembly’s housing committee since 2013, which allows him to delve into housing issues as gentrification continues to be a concern in Harlem.

In March, Mr. Wright offered an alternative to 421-a, a tax incentive that provides support for rental housing development in New York City, which expired in January. The plan Mr. Wright proposed included direct subsidies for developers, but it stalled in the Legislature.

Mr. Wright had an exchange on social media in May with Clyde Williams, one of his opponents in the current congressional race. On Twitter, Mr. Wright referred to Mr. Williams, a former Democratic Party official, as “Wall Street Williams” and included a picture with his opponent’s face pasted on the body of Mr. Monopoly.

Mr. Wright said the tweet was in response to a series of tweets from Mr. Williams’s campaign with the hashtag #WrightIsWrong.

“I usually don’t indulge and we run affirmative campaigns,” Mr. Wright said. “But sometimes you just have to hit back a little bit.”