Congressman Charles Rangel faces tough primary

NEW YORK -- On Tuesday, a four decade career in Congress is on the line when New York's Charles Rangel faces challenger Adriano Espaillat in the Democratic primary. In the past, Rangel often won re-election without breaking a sweat. But, not this time.

From the outside looking in, it's a modern-day tale of David and Goliath. It's the national newcomer Adriano Espaillat versus veteran rock star Charlie Rangel.

"It's good to be liked. And it's better to be liked than ignored. I've been around this town a long time," Rangel tells CBS News.

Rangel has served 44 years in the House, where he has tasted major highs and epic lows. In 2010, the House Committee on Ethics found him guilty of 11 violations, including failure to pay taxes.

New York State Senator Adriano Espaillat
CBS News

That nearly cost him his seat in 2012 to State Senator Adriano Espaillat, who lost that primary by only 1,100 votes.

"Back in the day he did well, he was a representative that people went to and got things done. But you know he ran into trouble along the way and he hasn't really produced," says Espaillat.

Changes in the district mean a tighter race. In 1990, African-Americans made up half of the area. Today, New York's 13th Congressional District is 54 percent Latino, 27 percent black and 13 percent white - a population that could represent the swing vote.

Espaillat says, "I think new voters, folks that have moved into the 13th Congressional District want to see new energy and a new vision. I think that they want to break with the past. They want a new opportunity for this neighborhood."

Congressman Charles Rangel campaigning.
CBS News

"There is no difference between the economic and political needs of my constituents. I cannot think of a vote that would involve me thinking white constituents, how many black constituents, how many Dominican, how many Puerto Ricans. I've never had to think that way in all the years I've been in the Congress," says Rangel.

If Espaillat wins, he'll become the first Dominican elected to Congress. A notion Charlie Rangel isn't ready to concede.

"It never entered my mind really," replies Rangel.

But what if it goes against him Tuesday?

"I will go to sleep like a baby and cry all damn night," Rangel answers while laughing.