Charlie Rangel's future at stake, again

FILE- In this Sept. 22, 2011 file photo, Rep. Charlie Rangel, D-NY, smiles on Capitol Hill in Washington. Ethical clouds are hanging over at least a dozen lawmakers but in most cases they don't appear to be having much of an impact on their re-election prospects. Most center on complicated financial dealings rather than the headline-grabbing, sex-driven Internet scandals that have driven others from office over the past year and a half. File,AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite

File,AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite
This isn't the first time this sentence has been written in the past few years: The political future of Rep. Charlie Rangel, D-N.Y., is at stake today.

The embattled Rangel faces another closely-watched primary, though the landscape is a bit different than his last go-around, when he was caught up in a congressional ethics scandal.

The 82-year-old Rangel is the third longest-serving current member of the House of Representatives (tied with Rep. C.W. "Bill" Young, R-Fla.) and survived a primary challenge in 2010, handily defeating Adam Clayton Powell IV, the son of the man Rangel beat in 1970.

The wildcard this year? Redistricting has reshaped his congressional district geographically and demographically.

The longtime Harlem lawmaker's district now includes parts of New York City where the African-American Rangel doesn't have a history of campaigning - specifically the Bronx - and his district now has fewer blacks than Latinos.

His most serious challenger is state senator Adriano Espaillat, who's looking to become the first Dominican-American elected to Congress. Also running in the Democratic primary are Clyde Williams, Joyce Johnson and Craig Schley.

Both Rangel and Espaillat have Bronx heavyweights behind them - Espaillat has been endorsed by two former Bronx borough presidents, while Rangel has the endorsement of the current borough president. But it could come down to turnout, which is predicted to be low. New Yorkers have voted in September primaries for decades until a court ruling moved the primary to June.

As for strategy, Espaillat is employing the tried and true method of going after longtime incumbents -- saying it's time for a change.

"When he first got there Nixon was the president, Joe Namath was playing for the Jets and the Mets won their first championship. That was a long time ago and things are different now. Our goals and challenges are vastly different," Espaillat said, according to CBS station WCBS-TV.

Rangel, on the other hand, said he still has a lot left in the tank.

"I had really looked forward to retirement, but there's no question in my mind that I can make a difference," said Rangel.

  • Steve Chaggaris

    Steve Chaggaris is's Executive Editor, Washington.