Facing what may be the toughest re-election fight of his career, Congressman Charles Rangel has been rolling out a number of high-profile endorsements recently. But the one he announced Wednesday may carry more symbolic weight than any of the others. NY1's Bobby Cuza filed this report.
Standing in front of the state office building that bears his father’s name and beneath the statue that immortalizes him in bronze, Adam Clayton Powell IV made a U-turn Wednesday.
“I am here to state clearly and unequivocally that I will be supporting Charlie Rangel for the United States Congress,” he said.
It’s an endorsement that's heavy on symbolism. Powell’s father, Adam Clayton Powell Jr., was a Harlem icon. He was New York’s first black Congressman and served 25 years before Rangel unseated him in 1970.
Powell himself then ran against Rangel twice, including a 1994 race that featured some pointed exchanges.
“I’m going to try to be very kind to you, Adam, because I recognize that there's a lot that you don't know," Rangel said during a 1994 debate.
When Powell responded by saying "There you go again," Rangel told him to stop.
"You have a record for absolutely nothing," the Congressman said.
On Wednesday, Powell seemed ready to put the past behind him.
"The fact is that that was then," he said. "This is now."
Powell says there was never any real animosity between them, though he also acknowledges that Rangel has flaws.
"It doesn’t mean that he’s perfect," Powell said. "It doesn’t mean that I agree with him 100 percent. It doesn’t mean that I am in love with him. It just means that he’s the best candidate that we have."
The other candidates include State Sen. Adriano Espaillat, who is seeking to become the first Dominican-American in Congress. On Wednesday, Espillat announced that he, too, had been endorsed by a trailblazing politician: Herman Badillo, the country’s first Puerto Rican Congressman.
But Powell, who didn’t rule out running for the seat again in the future, predicts Rangel will prevail.
“They’re going to learn," he said. "Like I said, I got my whipping two years ago. Now all of them will get their whipping now.”
The impact that all these endorsements will have at the ballot box will be known on June 26, when Rangel, Espaillat and three others face off in the Democratic primary.