NEW YORK (AP)—Some of U.S. Rep. Charles Rangel’s constituents greeted the embattled politician with a warm handshake July 24, saying his decades of public service outshine the ethics cloud hanging over him as he seeks re-election.
“Charlie has done as much for this community as any politician has for theirs or maybe more,” Herbert Collins, a retired transportation worker, said after Rangel gave a speech on health care. “He deserves another term because I don’t see anyone out there who can do any better.”
|EMBATTLED CONGRESSMAN—Rep. Charles B. Rangel, D-N.Y., is greeted by a supporter as he arrives at a health care forum at Harlem Hospital, July 24, in New York.
But outside, in the sweltering heat, another Harlem resident was in no mood for compromise.
“I don’t think he’s fit to serve in Congress, he’s not reliable to represent us,” said 27-year-old A.G. Ousmane, who was selling $1 bottles of ice-cold water to passers-by from a cooler. “We need someone young and clear like a bottle of water, with a new swagger—not with a history like Rangel’s.”
With temperatures in the 90s, Rangel arrived at Harlem Hospital dressed all in white, later telling reporters that he is counting on presumption of innocence until proven guilty.
He says that all he wants is fairness when the House reveals the charges on July 29.
After 40 years in office, Rangel still enjoys support among many of his Harlem constituents as he faces re-election.
“I don’t want any special breaks,” he said. “All I want is fairness.”
Rangel, 80, smiled broadly at supporters in an elevator that took him to the hospital’s second floor, where he spoke at a community health care forum. He emphasized the need for preventive care—especially for conditions like diabetes, which is more common among Black Americans than others.
“Where’s my congressman?” one woman shouted at him before he spoke.
“Hi darlin’! What a welcome!” he responded, to roars of approval.
This was home turf for the politician who was once the youngest member of Harlem’s “Gang of Four”—the other three being Percy Sutton, Basil Paterson and David Dinkins. They mentored Rangel into a position of power he had not relinquished until this year.