Congressman Charles Rangel speaks after declaring himself the winner in the race for the Democratic primary challenge in New York's 15th congressional district on June 26, 2012 in New York City. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
On the heels of being declared the winner in New York City’s 13th Congressional District primary election with 45.2 percent of the vote, Charles Rangel is fighting to stay on top in the midst of a dwindling marginof victory and a vote recount. His opponent, Dominican-American State Senator Adriano Espaillat recently got permission from the state supreme court to withdraw his campaign’s petition, a move that could result in a new vote, according to media reports.This just the latest challenge the Congressman, who TIME magazine called the “Lion of Harlem”in 2009, will have to overcome. His legendary legislative career was seriously tainted by a recent ethics scandal, which ended in his being censured by the House last year. But Rangel has been viewed as a champion for the interests of African-Americans in his heavily Latino district — which now runs from East Harlem to the northwest Bronx.”The idea of Harlem always being on the ropes and being able to bounce back, that’s been the story of Rangel’s political career,” Duke University African-American studies professor Mark Anthony Neal told CNN.com recently. The report highlighted that large voter turnout among African-Americans in the 13th district is what has buoyed Rangel time and again in his over four decades as a Harlem political leader.
But, it’s also this idea of Harlem as the center of black identity and culture in New York City that has implied that Rangel works in the interest of the black community, according to the website Religions of Harlem. ”His record in the House, indeed, enforces this idea, as a number of issues he has focused on, such as anti-drug campaigns and low-income housing efforts,” said one article on the site from last year.
With some Latino groups in the city calling for the federal government to get involved in the election recount, and Espaillat citing reports of voter suppression and calling the entire process that elected Rangel a “phantom election,” the mounting effort to unseat Rangel is seen as needed change by some Harlemites.
“I feel at this point, Rangel has served the interests of the African-American community, but it’s time for someone new,” said Harlem blogger Marc Polite.
“Up until a certain point it’s counterproductive for Rangel to stay,” he says, pointing out the need to resolve the voting dispute and counting the 2,000 absentee ballots.
“The ballot discrepancy,” Polite said,”is actually overshadowing anything that [Rangel] might be able to do” if and when he does regain his seat.