by Karen Matthews
Associated Press Writer
NEW YORK (AP)—A defiant Rep. Charles Rangel brushed aside questions about an ongoing ethics investigation June 6 as he announced his re-election campaign for the seat he has held since 1971.
“They can fire their best shot, but they just can’t walk over success, right?” Rangel told cheering supporters at Boricua College in Manhattan’s Washington Heights neighborhood.
The Harlem Democrat stepped aside as chairman of the powerful House Ways and Means Committee in March and faces challengers including state Assemblyman Adam Clayton Powell IV, whose father held the seat until Rangel defeated him in 1970.
Rangel said he would campaign for re-election “as though it’s a very close district and the whole Congress is depending on me to keep the majority.”
Rangel relinquished his committee chairmanship after being admonished by the House ethics panel for taking corporate trips to the Caribbean in violation of House rules.
“I stepped aside so that I would not be a target for the Republicans,” he said Sunday.
He still faces inquiries by the ethics committee over late payment of income taxes on a rental villa in the Dominican Republic, his use of House stationery to solicit corporate donations to an educational institution that bears his name and belated disclosure of hundreds of thousands of dollars in previously unlisted wealth.
“Let them complete their work and report back,” he said.
Rangel, who turns 80 this week, cited a report by the Congressional watchdog group OpenCongress that found he had successfully passed more bills than any other lawmaker in the current Congress.
“I’ve just been selected as the most effective legislator in the House of Representatives,” Rangel said. “I would like to believe that counts for something.”
Rangel said his constituents are not concerned about the ethics probe.
“Most of the people actually believe we have been treated unfairly by the press,” he told reporters after his announcement. “But I don’t make those comments. I’m just sharing them with you.”
Dozens of elected officials, including Gov. David Paterson, attended the re-election announcement. Paterson said Rangel should be in Congress “for as long as he wants to be.”