NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) endorsed Rep. Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.) on Monday, joining a long line of party leaders backing the 22-term congressman ahead of a highly competitive primary in three weeks.
“From his time in uniform during the Korean War to his leadership on the Ways and Means Committee to his passion and persistence on the House floor every day, Congressman Rangel has proven himself a courageous, innovative, dedicated public servant, who always fights for working families,” Pelosi said in a statement.
Rangel faces a competitive June 24 primary against state Sen. Adriano Espaillat (D-Manhattan) and Baptist minister Michael Walrond Jr. — in a district that spans Harlem, Washington Heights and Inwood and and snakes down the West Side, and is now predominantly Hispanic.
Rangel edged out Espaillat by fewer than 1,100 votes in the 2012 primary.
Rangel, who turns 84 next week, has survived tough campaigns and censure by the House. In December 2010 when Pelosi was speaker, Rangel received the most severe punishment short of expulsion for financial wrongdoing, including failure to pay all his taxes, filing misleading financial statements and improperly seeking money from corporate interests.
Rangel acknowledged that he had made mistakes but asserted that at no time had he been dishonest or tried to enrich himself.
In his bid for a 23rd term, the congressman has picked up the support of former President Bill Clinton, New York’s two senators – Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand — and several members of the state’s congressional delegation. Long Island U.S. Rep. Steve Israel (D-N.Y.), chairman of the campaign committee to elect Democrats, recently sent out a fundraising appeal for Rangel.
“Charlie’s judgment and wisdom have earned him the respect of his colleagues,” Pelosi said. “His belief in possibility, his commitment to his constituents and his knowledge of the House have made him an extraordinary resource. His institutional memory is second-to-none.”
At a debate with his two primary opponents in April, Rangel touted his experience and relationship with President Barack Obama, and said he could do the best job for the district’s constituents.
“If I thought for one minute that either one of you two can go to Washington, I’d be home with my wife and my grandkids,” he said.
He also said, “I am not married to this job just to stay here until I drop dead.”
But also at the debate, Walrond emphasized the district didn’t need a career politician, saying during a discussion of housing issues, “You cannot critique a problem you were a part of.”
Espaillat charged that the president had asked Rangel to step down several years ago during the ethics controversy.
Only one House incumbent has lost in the primary to date. Texas voters ousted 91-year-old Republican Rep. Ralph Hall last week in a runoff.
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