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Detractors Underestimated Rangel

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Critics thought they finally had him.

They assumed the blood they could smell in the water was career ending, that Congressman Charles Rangel was vulnerable, and at the age of 82, he was ripe to be knocked off after representing Harlem for more than 41 years.

The opponents miscalculated, though this time Rangel's back was up against the wall.

  • There was the censure for "11 ethics violations, including failing to pay taxes on a vacation home, and using congressional resources to raise money for an academic center bearing his name" at City College.
  • As a result the Obama White House looked the other way, and didn't endorse the Incumbent Rangel. The president even suggested it would be better if Rangel just retired and ended "his career with dignity."
  • If that wasn't enough, the district was redrawn and expanded to parts of the Bronx where for the first time Latinos represent the majority in the district.

So, should we call him Teflon Charlie?

Of course not. Yes, Rangel is an entrenched politician, but those that wrongly thought Rangel was a "dead man walking" forgot about a few things.

The power of incumbency. They didn't account for how he's seen all over the district. The truth is he has something that very few elected officials have: charisma. More importantly, Rangel is also viewed as delivering for the underprivileged communities of America. Remember the empowerment zone under President Bill Clinton?

Detractors also didn't account for several candidates in the race, as they split the opposition vote, mainly at the expense of Rangel's chief rival, State Senator Adriano Espaillat, who would have become the first Dominican member of the U.S Congress.

Espaillat, 57, had run on a platform of Rangel's censure and made the congressman a "poster child for dysfunction in Washington."

But voters didn't buy it. At least not enough voters.

Espaillat should have known while that would be a great slogan for the media, it would also be a tough sell with the voters, at least with the history of this particular seat.

There were different circumstances, but this election could be said to be history repeating itself. Voters in the same district stood by the man that preceded Rangel for some time. Adam Clayton Powell (New York's first black Congressman who had served 26 years) was caught up in a scandal himself. Despite that, voters returned Powell to Washington.

Here is the background :

Yvette Diago, Powell's third wife admitted that she had been on the Congressional payroll of her former husband, Adam Clayton Powell, Jr., from 1961 until 1967, although she had moved back to Puerto Rico in 1961 Powell was excluded from his seat by the 90th Congress, but he was re-elected; and he regained the seat in a 1969 United States Supreme Court ruling.

Rangel also had plenty of establishment support. Not only did former mayor Ed Koch endorse him, but so did current mayor Michael Bloomberg and Gov. Andrew Cuomo. There was also the support from some Latino leaders.

From the New York Daily News:

"You cannot underestimate the value of seniority, in and of itself in that system," Cuomo said about Rangel during a radio interview last week.

"And the Congressman's seniority delivers for his district, delivers for the State of New York and delivers for people who are disadvantaged all across this country," Cuomo continued.

Reuters reports:

"We came slightly short this time," Espaillat said, in conceding the race to Rangel.

It wasn't a difficult prediction of Rangel's primary victory fate. Here's how we discussed the contest hours before polls closed on RNN-TV, The Richard French Live Show.

Looking at my crystal ball again, it's safe to say there will be some voters in the district that will continue to argue fresh blood is needed, but Rangel is a fighter and will in all likelihood go out on his own terms, when he decides to retire.

At Sylvia's legendary restaurant in Harlem, long-time political leader Assemblyman Keith Wright made the same case in so many words, predicting Mr. Rangel will serve indefinitely in Congress, adding: "Charlie Rangel might be the Strom Thurmond of Harlem."

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