With his ethics trial looming, Congressman Charles Rangel took on his Democratic challengers Thursday night in a televised debate. NY1's Bobby Cuza filed the following report.
Congressman Charles Rangel may be facing a lot of trouble in Washington, but you wouldn’t have known it from watching Thursday’s debate where his Democratic challengers focused instead on the issues -- from immigration to off-shore drilling to the Bush-era tax cuts, sometimes seeming to jockey for the most liberal position.
"The president is wrong on Afghanistan. And I want to say this: I will not vote for a single dime for more offensive action in Afghanistan. It is an immoral war," said Congressional Candidate Jonathan Tasini.
Indeed, no candidate made direct mention of Rangel’s ethics troubles. Some even went out of their way to praise him.
"We need somebody who’s going to carry on at this point in your career, this hard work that you’ve done," said Congressional Candidate Vincent Morgan.
Most confrontational was State Assemblyman Adam Clayton Powell IV, who is widely considered Rangel’s leading challenger thanks largely to name recognition. His father, Adam Clayton Powell Jr., was the legendary Harlem Congressman Rangel unseated in 1970.
"He would not be happy, might even be turning over in his grave, if he saw some of the political trickery and some of the machinations that have gone on, and have been going on over the last 40 years," Powell IV said.
Rangel shot back at one point, citing Powell’s poor attendance record in Albany.
"I just hope that you...somebody checks out attendance records and legislative records. And you might even want to check out criminal records," Rangel told reporters afterward.
Perhaps because Rangel remains a popular figure, candidates sought not to make the race about personality, instead focusing any criticism on his record.
“I don’t think that I’ve seen a piece of real legislation from the congressman and the big bacon coming to the district since the great empowerment, the empowerment zone money, and that was back in 1995,"said Congressional Candidate Joyce Johnson.
The six candidates will face off in the Democratic primary on September 14, with the winner then moving on and becoming the heavy favorite to win the general election in November.