04/16/2012 06:34 pm ET Updated Jun 16, 2012

Running Against Rangel: The Challenge to New York's New 13th District

I'm a pretty intense person. I have been my entire life. But it is that drive and commitment to my community that has led me to this moment -- to being a candidate for the United States Congress.

It has not been an express route. My father died when I was three, so my mother, a public school teacher, primarily raised my siblings and me. We lived in the SE part of Washington, D.C., in a community not unlike Harlem in the 1970s and 1980s. As the oldest boy, I took on a lot of responsibility. And while the White House was just a few miles away from where I grew up, it seemed millions of miles away. If you had told me then that one day I would work in the White House, move to Harlem to work for President Clinton, and run for Congress, I never would have believed it.

I've been in public service for over 20 years, and have seen the impact of government -- both good and bad -- in shaping people's lives. And I believe strongly that as we climb out of this recession, we must embrace innovative ideas to tackle decades' old problems and turn our collective vision of the community into a reality. It is about empowering people over politics and shaking-up the status quo so that the next generation has greater opportunity. That's why, from the start, my campaign has not been about my journey, but about our journey to move Uptown forward.

But the only way to make sure it happens is to work together, listen to our neighbors, and get off the sidelines. We have the power to make government work for us, but it takes consistent drive and intense focus.

For me, the economy -- specifically small businesses, job creation, and bridging the talent gap -- are central priorities. I have a track record that achieved results.

Today, small businesses are responsible for the majority of the jobs in the district, but 11 years ago when I moved to Harlem it was unclear how many would survive. In response to the challenges facing local small businesses, I launched the Clinton Foundation's Harlem Small Business Initiative. The only promise we made was access to some of the best managerial and technical assistance possible through our volunteers from Booz Allen, NYU Stern School of Business and the National Black MBA Association. It wasn't about financial support, but the idea that better business practices, financial modeling and marketing planning could spawn success. It did.

One company we worked with was Harlem's Heaven, a family owned millinery shop. The two years before our engagement, Evetta Petty saw profit losses of 9 percent and 4 percent. The first year we worked with Evetta, her profits grew 7 percent. And the next year, a 9.5 percent increase. Today they take orders from around the world on the Internet and are thriving. (You've actually probably seen some of their hats without knowing it.) It is this 'hands-on' approach that made the difference. Some may say it is not a Congressman's responsibility to come up with public-private partnerships in their District. I disagree. If we have the resources to support constituents today, why shouldn't we?

Today, because of the support of many constituents of the 13th Congressional District, I achieved an important milestone in my candidacy for U.S. Congress. I filed over 6,000 petition signatures supporting my access to the ballot (5,000 more than legally required). During the process, my volunteers and I engaged voters across the District about their vision for the future and mine, because I wanted to make sure they knew what I stood for -- not just ask for their signature.

And if I am lucky enough to represent this community, it is these people that I will continually turn to and listen to. It is our journey. Let's head down the path, together.