Staffers purchased a dozen bottles of champagne weeks ago to celebrate Representative Charles Rangel’s victory Tuesday night. But the short celebration at the Martin Luther King Jr. Democratic Club on 128th Street and Adam Clayton Powell Boulevard did not pass without mention of the 40-year incumbent’s upcoming public trial for ethics charges.
Rangel won another term by a wide margin Tuesday despite lingering concerns over ethics allegations related to failing to pay income taxes and not properly disclosing personal assets.
Rangel—who won a crowded primary race in September and earned nearly 80 percent of the vote Tuesday—has, it seems, developed strong loyalties in Harlem.
When reporters at the victory press conference asked about the upcoming Nov. 15 trial, Rangel replied, “I’m glad you brought that up. I’m really not thinking about that tonight.”
Campaign volunteer Desiree Thompkins-Harris said Rangel’s landslide victory against Republican Michael Faulkner and Independent Craig Schley—both considered longshots in the heavily-Democratic neighborhoods of Harlem and the Upper West Side—shows that the charges brought against Rangel do not hold weight with his constituents.
“They’re gonna open the door and let you back home. That’s all they can do!” Thompkins-Harris said, after Rangel asked what Congress would do to him next month.
Rangel told the Spectator that Harlem hasn’t “seen nothing yet.”
“We have to join in the recovery, and I think we’ve been doing a pretty good job of that so far…We just have to make certain we get our small businesses moving and our education continuing to grow,” he said in an interview.
When reporters asked him why the Democrats lost the House, Rangel replied, “because they didn’t get enough votes.”
Anthony Guzman, a resident of East Harlem who attended the victory celebration, said the charges against Rangel were not important to him.
“There’s always going to be a smear campaign here and there,” he said. “That’s politics.”
Inez Dickens, a local City Council member, said Rangel’s victory was one of the few things to celebrate in this year’s elections.
Dickens told the Spectator that the celebration was more subdued than in year’s past, because of the loss of the House.
“Everybody’s blaming the Democrats,” Dickens said, adding, “Congressman Rangel will continue to be a force. The Republicans will try to take him down but Harlem will let them know ... you don’t mess with Charlie Rangel.”
For Gloria Frasier, a local independent voter, the choices on all fronts felt slim. “I just wish I had better choices. … I just have to hold my nose and vote,” she said.
Local resident Madeline Falk said she still hadn’t made up her mind about Rangel as she stood in line to get her ballot. “It really is a tough one. He’s good, but he became too sure that he was not going to be challenged.”
For other voters, Rangel’s track record was no longer enough.
Candace Stuart said she’d been a longtime Rangel supporter, who had voted for him probably 20 times and even gone to see him speak. “He’s a crook—what can I say?” she said, before she went to vote Tuesday evening.
“I’ll always love Charlie Rangel,” Upper West Side voter Sandra Lea said, “but he’s probably going to be ineffectual with the charges. It’s a shadow hanging over him.”
During the day, the campaigns of Rangel’s challengers remained optimistic.
Joy Carol spent most of Election Day campaigning for Faulkner outside of PS 165 on 109th Street. As the polls neared closing, she said she was still confident about Faulkner’s chances.
“Some people are diehard Democrats, but others are more open for change. I can’t say I’m totally discouraged,” she said.
Schley’s campaign expressed similar optimism. “We’re very, very excited. His chances of winning are very high. Voters are not very happy with the Democrats or the Republicans, so the Independent line is an option,” campaign manager Adriane Mack said early Tuesday evening.
“Either way, we’re all going to win because he’s going to continue working for the community,” she added.
For Morningside Heights voter Thomas Gonzalez said, the choice was simple. “Rangel, I vote for as the lesser of two evils.”