When the dust settled after the 2010 Census and states began to redraw their Congressional districts politicos and pundits hit the airwaves speculating on the impact the demographic shift would have on the 2012 elections. Last week, in the New York democratic primary, New York State Senator Adriano Espaillat and Congressman Charles Rangel, the third most senior member in the House, went toe to toe in an historic primary that could become a bellwether for other districts that have seen similar demographic shifts that favor Latinos. NBC Latino has examined the racial implications of the Rangel v. Espiallat showdown and is asking if this race could be the first phase of a political rivalry gripping America’s two largest minority groups:

Is it really “brown versus black” in a New York congressional race which is making national headlines? A Dominican-American politician, state senator Adriano Espaillat, is 800 votes away from the votes cast for Congressman Charles Rangel, one of the country’s most well-known African American congressmen for over four decades. The primary might involve a recount, due to what the New York Times refers to as the “wildly dysfunctional planet” known as the New York City Board of Elections. But even without knowing the final result, some analysts say the race has already been a game changer.

“Even with a low voter turnout, the fact that Espaillat is this close and the media is talking about it is pretty amazing,” says Angelo Falcón, a political scientist at the National Institute for Latino Policy. “After this, politicians will not take the Dominican community for granted again.”

At the Espaillat campaign office, Libbys Ceballos, who immigrated from the Dominican Republic thirty years ago, says no matter the outcome, “para mi, el ganó.” (for me, he won). Ceballos, who says she became politically involved after her raising her now grown children, says there is a real value in working to see “one of their own” make it to Congress. “Imagine a child in this community who wants to study political science, and sees a role model in Espaillat,” she says.

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