Ethics charges complicate Charlie Rangel’s re-election race

Rachel Rose Hartman
The Upshot

The day before New York voters head to the polls in Rep. Charlie Rangel's primary race, a public trial is scheduled to open in which the longtime congressman will be defending himself against multiple ethics charges.

How's that for timing?

Unsurprisingly, this is all welcome news to Rangel's Democratic primary challengers. Rangel should "retire with honor. It's time to turn the page," challenger Adam Clayton Powell IV told the New York Daily News.

Multiple Democrats have been campaigning for the Harlem-area 15th District seat, hoping that the congressman's ethics woes will finally spell an end to his nearly 40 years in office.

But the lawmaker remains a fixture in the Harlem community and retains significant support from voters in addition to an unrivaled degree of name recognition and financial and national political connections.

A total of 47 percent of Democratic voters surveyed in the district by Public Policy Polling this month said Rangel should remain in office to deal with the ethics charges and just 35 percent said he should retire. An additional 18 percent of those surveyed were undecided.

The poll, which was conducted prior to yesterday's ethics-charges announcement, also found Rangel leading the Democratic field with 39 percent. But it's clear that the voters surveyed were conflicted. Another 24 percent said they were undecided about whom to support in the Sept. 14 primary, and in third place, 21 percent expressed support for Powell, a state assemblyman and son of the man whom Rangel ousted from Congress in 1970.

The ethics investigation is going to public trial in the House due to Rangel's desire to fight the charges and clear his name. "I am pleased that, at long last, sunshine will pierce the cloud of serious allegations that have been raised against me in the media," Rangel responded yesterday after the charges were announced.