Charles Rangel has a storied past in Harlem and the US House of
Representatives, where he has served 21 terms. But ethics
violations, censure, and redistricting could take a toll in
Will being censured by the House of Representatives last December
cost Rep. Charles Rangel (D) of New York his seat?
The 21-term congressman will find out Tuesday after voters go to
the polls in northern Manhattan, Harlem, and a small part of the
Bronx to select who will be on the Democratic ticket in November -
practically a guarantee of election in New York's 13th Congressional
In the past, this wouldn't even be an issue. Mr. Rangel, a
decorated Korean War veteran who helped funnel vast federal dollars
toward the revitalization of his district, usually had no trouble
fending off challengers. He was always well versed on the issues,
and he had a gravelly voice that resonated with voters. Many 50-
year-olds still remember when he handed out candy to them.
But times have changed.
The boundaries of Rangel's district have been changed - giving it
a much larger proportion of Hispanic voters. Rangel himself, once a
vigorous campaigner, has slowed down. And Rangel no longer has the
clout he used to have when he ran the powerful House Ways & Means
Committee, which sets tax policy and writes bills affecting Social
Security, Medicare, and other entitlement programs.
Nevertheless, he remains a force.
Last Friday, Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) of New York gave Rangel his
endorsement, on the basis of the many years he has represented the
"The endorsement suggests he still has some clout," says Lee
Miringoff, director of polling at the Marist Institute of Public
Opinion in Poughkeepsie, N.Y. "Cuomo provides some important
Rangel also showed he still has the political skill to minimize
setbacks when he commented to the television cameras last Friday
about The New York Times endorsement of Clyde Williams, a former aid
to President Bill Clinton: "Just tell me how the editorial board of
The New York Times could say that Clyde Williams would make a better
representative of my district, my city, my country," he intoned,
emphasizing the word "my" each time.
Nevertheless, Rangel will need all the help he can get. In
December 2010, he was censured for 11 congressional ethics
violations, including failing to pay taxes on a property he owned
and improperly soliciting millions of dollars of corporate donations
for the Charles B. Rangel Center for Public Service at the City
College of New York.
The New York legislature has also redistricted Rangel's turf,
resulting in many more Hispanic voters than African-Americans. As a
result, Rangel's main opponent is Adriano Espaillat, a Dominican-
"The question is can he turn out the voters?" says Douglas
Muzzio, a political commentator and professor at Baruch College in
Manhattan. "Presumably, a Latino votes for a Latino."
Mr. Muzzio says that if Rangel is going to lose, "this is the
perfect storm. …