Charles Rangel seeking one last term in House

Charles Rangel, the U.S. Representative for New York's

Charles Rangel, the U.S. Representative for New York's 13th congressional district, seen in front of the National Action Network Harlem headquarters on Saturday, March 8, 2014. (Credit: Steven Sunshine)

Dan Janison

Melville. N.Y. Tuesday January 26, 2010. Daniel Janison, Dan Janison

Dan Janison has been a reporter at Newsday for 10

bio | email

The most amazing aspect of this early federal primary season in New York may be that Rep. Charles Rangel (D-Harlem), dean of the state congressional delegation, stands for re-election this long after his time in politics seemed over.

In December 2010 Rangel stood silently before the House of Representatives as then-Speaker Nancy Pelosi read a resolution censuring him for discrediting the body, for which members voted 333-79.

The transgressions included failure to pay income taxes and misuse of his office to solicit fundraising donations.

By then he'd already been stripped of his powerful Ways and Means Committee chairmanship.

Months before, as his troubles played out -- and as Democrats fretted over what proved to be the coming loss of the House majority -- President Barack Obama said of Rangel: "I'm sure that what he wants is to be able to end his career with dignity. And my hope is that it happens."

But now Rangel, 83, asks for just one more term -- his 23rd -- which would end his career as Obama leaves office.

"He really does want to finish out with Obama," said a friend of the congressman. "If he thought there was someone from Harlem who might hold the seat, he might have stepped aside. Who can do more for the district in the next two years? He may have another hard primary, but a lot of people have lost money betting against Charlie."

Rangel survived a close contest in 2012 shortly after his Manhattan district was redrawn to include new territory the Bronx. State Sen. Adriano Espaillat (D-Manhattan), who landed just 3 percentage points short, is opposing him again in the June 24 Democratic primary, where the result is tantamount to election. Those around Espaillat, 59, see his chances as improved.

Allies of the Dominican-born Espaillat note the district is increasingly Latino. Also, this campaign has more time to get organized, compared with two years ago, when Primary Day closely followed redistricting.

The idea that big electoral careers can begin and end in these city Democratic primary fights may seem strange in other places where two parties compete for House seats.

In Brooklyn in 1972, 49-year Rep. Emanuel Celler became the most senior House member ever to lose a primary.

Six years later Brooklyn Assemb. Stanley Steingut lost a primary -- while speaker.

And then there was veteran Rep. Adam Clayton Powell Jr. He lost a 1970 primary -- to a 40-year-old assemblyman named Charles Rangel.