New York Rep. Charles Rangel faces voters in congressional primary

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Voters in New York City's Harlem neighborhood and parts of the Bronx will go to the polls on Tuesday to decide the political fate of U.S. Representative Charles Rangel, who is running for a 23rd term in Congress.

Rangel, who at 84 is among the longest-serving and best-known lawmakers in Congress, faces an aggressive challenge in the Democratic primary from state Senator Adriano Espaillat, who came within 1,000 votes of ousting him two years ago after the district boundaries were redrawn.

A Siena College poll released last week found Rangel leading Espaillat 47 percent to 34 percent among likely voters in the district. But primary results can be difficult to predict because much depends on turnout.

"In a low-turn out race, ground game really matters," Steven Greenberg, the Siena pollster, said, adding that two years ago just 15 percent of enrolled Democrats voted in the primary.

"It's the last Tuesday in June, it's the last week of school, it's the week before July 4," he said.

In this liberal bastion of New York City, the winner of the Democratic primary on Tuesday is all but guaranteed to win the general election in November.

While Rangel, who was censured by the House in 2010 after an ethics scandal, boasts a long list of endorsements - including former President Bill Clinton; New York's U.S. senators, Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand; and Governor Andrew Cuomo - the major local newspapers have been split.

The New York Times threw its support behind Espaillat, saying it is time for Rangel, who entered Congress in 1971, to "yield to the next generation," while the New York Daily News endorsed Rangel, whom the paper called a "master legislator" deserving of a "last hurrah."

According to the Siena poll, voters are divided along racial lines. Rangel, who is black, holds a 70-point advantage among blacks while Espaillat, who grew up in the Dominican Republic, holds a 24-point advantage among Latinos. White voters in the district favor Rangel 43 percent to 38 percent.

(Reporting by Edith Honan; Editing by Eric Beech)