Rep.Charles Rangel, an enduring Harlem institution at 81, won’t be yielding his Congressional seat anytime soon, it appears. A high-profile Rangel fundraiser last month at a Washington, D.C., restaurant reportedly raised around $50,000, with major Democratic Party figures out in force.
And in an email to his campaign’s mailing list earlier this month, Rangel made clear that he plans to “fight like hell for the privilege of serving again” in the 15th Congressional District. This is his 40th year as a member of the House of Representatives and his 20th Congressional term.
“Charlie’s definitely running again,” confirmed Bob Liff, a Rangel spokesman. “He always campaigns like he never takes anything for granted,” and next year’s primary and general elections will be no different.
The latest available Federal Election Commission filings show that Rangel’s main campaign committee, Rangel for Congress, received $652,485 in contributions this year and has $338,054 in net available funds. From July 1 to September 30 alone, his committee raised $345,946.
In last year’s primary, despite a highly publicized House censure for ethics violations, Rangel easily outpaced the next most popular Democratic candidate, former Assemblyman Adam Clayton Powell IV, 26,101 votes to 11,834.
“What happens in Washington isn’t always reflected in the people’s districts,” said Liff. “On the substance of the job, Charlie Rangel hasn’t lost anything. I challenge you to find another district where a Congressman has had more impact on the lives of people on the street, and really on virtually every block.”
In fact, Liff argued, the 2010 censure might have bolstered Rangel’s support. “Last year we had, in some ways, a better turnout, as there was a sense among people in New York that Charlie was being unfairly treated,” he said. Liff argued that Rangel’s transgressions were “merely rules violations, without any corruption or personal gain involved.”
Last year, in a field of five Democratic opponents, Rangel still drew over 50 per cent of the vote in the Democratic primary. He then defeated Republican Michael Faulkner by a landslide in the general election, with 80 percent of the vote.
But upcoming elections may bring another unpredictable shift for Rangel and others, as a state taskforce redraws Senate, Assembly, and Congressional district lines. Electoral redistricting, which takes place every decade, could reflect the significant demographic changes in Rangel’s district, specifically its growing Hispanic majority. According to the Census, the district is currently 46 percent Hispanic, 26 percent African-American and 21 percent Caucasian.
Pundits of all stripes have speculated for some time about who might eventually replace Rangel when he does step down or lose at the polls. He may be warily eyeing one potential challenger, experienced Washington political operative Clyde Williams, as evidenced by some nameless sniping in a December 6 campaign email. Another possible challenger, Vince Morgan, has received local press attention as a vocal critic of problems with Columbia’s Manhattanville development.
The candidate considered closest to a natural Rangel successor, and most likely to win his endorsement eventually, is Assemblyman Keith Wright. Liff noted that Rangel has a “lot of respect” for Wright.
“People are positioning themselves for when Rangel moves on,” said one Democrat familiar with Rangel’s work. “He’s been there for 40 years, and everyone has had to wait; now you have three generations waiting there, who want that seat.”