After 41 years in the House of Representatives, Congressman Charlie Rangel faced the fight of his political life last night and came away with a victory. Mr. Rangel’s 22nd term in Congress was threatened by the changing boundaries and demographics of his district, lingering fallout from a tax and fundraising scandal that saw him censured for ethics violations by his House colleagues in 2010 and health issues that sent the 82-year-old in and out of the hospital for two months earlier this year. In a victory speech made from a makeshift stage set up in front of Sylvia’s restaurant in the heart of his longtime base in Harlem, Mr. Rangel praised his supporters, political allies and family for sticking with him through the difficult campaign. He also had harsh words for the press and the rivals who attempted to end his political career.
President Barack Obama didn’t give Rep. Charlie Rangel an endorsement in today’s election, but that didn’t stop supporters of the longtime congressman’s re-election bid from peppering Harlem with flyers featuring a huge picture of the president embracing Mr. Rangel as voters headed to the polls. The flyer describes Mr. Rangel as “a key leader in passing Obama’s healthcare law.”
Charlie In Charge
Charlie Rangel went to vote at P.S. 175 in Harlem this morning and, in a brief press conference afterward, the longtime congressman was dismissive of his opponents, the media and the entire possibility he might lose. Today’s race is seen as potentially the toughest of the congressman’s over forty years in office thanks to the changing demographics of his district. However, Mr. Rangel first replied with a joke when a reporter asked what he’d do if he loses.
“Well, if I lose tonight, I will sleep just like a baby and cry myself to sleep,” he said with a smile.
After a few laughs, the Congressman followed up to say he doesn’t think about losing at all.
“No, no,” said Mr. Rangel. “If you have the spirit that’s necessary to overcome these political obstacles and if you’re fortunate enough to know that they’re not obstacles that you can’t overcome, than the whole attitude, ‘What do I do if I lose?’ never reaches that mental level. It really doesn’t. I would find some way to tell you if I thought it did.”
Despite strong fundraising numbers, a well-organized campaign and his experience working in national politics, former DNC political director Clyde Williams is generally seen by insiders as a likely third place finisher behind State Senator Adriano Espaillat and Rep. Charlie Rangel in the race for Upper Manhattan’s newly redrawn 13th congressional district. However, Mr. Williams told The Politicker he’s confident about his chances when we caught up with him last night as he met with voters in rapper Doug E. Fresh’s Harlem restaurant, Doug E.’s Chicken & Waffles.
“I feel very good,” Mr. Williams said. “I don’t particularly say I know exactly what the breakdown is going to be, but based on what we’ve done, our own analysis, we feel good about where we are. We know where our voters are, we plan on getting them to the polls.”
In The Heights
With tomorrow’s Democratic congressional primary approaching, State Senator Adriano Espaillat hit the streets near 168th Street and Broadway in Washington Heights to encourage voters to support him in his race to unseat veteran Congressman Charlie Rangel. Several reporters tagged along and Mr. Espaillat addressed Mr. Rangel’s accusation he’s circulating petitions to run for re-election to the State Senate if his congressional bid is unsuccessful.
Mr. Espaillat claimed he wasn’t making any effort to circulate petitions. He also said he didn’t know of anyone else petitioning on his behalf. Mr. Rangel brandished physical copies of alleged ballot petitions for Mr. Espaillat at their NY1 debate earlier this month, but Mr. Espaillat implied those documents were fakes.
“I don’t know, I haven’t seen anything,” Mr. Espaillat said of the alleged petitions. “Congressman Rangel whipped one out that looked like a fake subpoena. He wants to have people distracted.”
Congressman Charlie Rangel has steadily been making the Campaign for Primary Accountability super PAC’s support for one of his opponents, State Senator Adriano Espaillat, an issue throughout his reelection campaign. “Right-wingers from Texas are trying to stop him,” one of his campaign mailers declared, for example. However, that super PAC — despite promising to spend “six figures” — never even bothered to spend as much as $10,000.
But in the modern era of super PACs, there’s always another. In a campaign email to supporters entitled “Houston, We Have a Problem,” the incumbent congressman lamented the existence of a different Super PAC supporting another one of his Democratic opponents, Clyde Williams.
“My campaign is not circulating petitions for any other office, I’m running to win on June 26th and that’s the end of it,” State Senator Adriano Espaillat said in response to the first question on Inside City Hall last night, inquiring whether he is trying to get onto the ballot to run for reelection while waging a congressional campaign. “I have not instructed anybody nor have I authorized anybody to circulate petitions for any office whatsoever.”
“I’m advising people not to sign any petitions with my name on it,” he added when the host, Errol Louis, pressed him on it, causing Mr. Louis to label his answer as “very clear.”
However, that was by far not the last time viewers of the debate heard of the charge, as Mr. Espaillat is seeking to unseat veteran Congressman Charlie Rangel, who continuously brought it up in subsequent questions.
Last month, The Observer wrote a piece detailing how the New York Times endorsement process works, what the editorial board looks for in a candidate, and how much getting the gray lady’s nod determines who emerges victorious on election day.
Now, with New York’s federal elections only a few weeks away, we take a look at each of the competitive elections on June 26, take a guess at which way the paper will go and deduce what kind of an effect it will have.
Disagree? Make it known in the comments.
U.S. Senate Republican Primary—Bob Turner vs. Wendy Long vs. George Maragos
It is no by means a certainty that The Times will endorse in the GOP Senate primary, and if they do, expect it to be a hold-you-nose-and-vote-for-the-guy-who-is-marginally-better-than-the-rest kind of endorsement. Expect something along the lines of the paper’s endorsement of Mitt Romney in the presidential primary in April, in which they mocked Mr. Romney for abandoning his moderating tendencies and slammed GOP extremism before declaring the Massachusetts governor “the best choice of the field.” For this little noticed Senate race for the right to go up against Kirsten Gillibrand, the paper is likely to go with Bob Turner, a Queens businessman-turned-congressman, who is far less strident in his social views than Wendy Long and more dynamic than George Maragos. Mr. Turner is running very much as the candidate of New York City, and hometown pride may count for something here.
“Is the empty seat for the other person who’s running?” an audience member asked the moderator before the candidates running against Congressman Charlie Rangel introduced themselves in Washington Heights last evening.
“Since you asked it now, I’m happy to tell you now,” the moderator responded. “Hudson Heights has called Congressman Rangel’s office repeatedly and we were told a few days ago, and again today, that the congressman would be unable to be here.”
Mr. Rangel himself contested this explanation, insisting that he had never been invited, but regardless, the four challengers to Mr. Rangel in this year’s Democratic primary discussed federal policy issues without the sitting incumbent they are hoping to unseat.
“I’m talking about real jobs that are available today,” Clyde Williams said as we talked over brunch in Harlem this morning (he wanted otmeal but settled for the scrambled egg plate). “Studies show that if all the jobs available were filled, the unemployment rate would be under 7%”
Mr. Williams was explaining his next policy push in his congressional campaign as he works to unseat veteran Rep. Charlie Rangel. He argued that the federal government should be doing much more to retrain workers for targeted industries and that Mr. Rangel, currently in office, has not been delivering.