Why Charlie Rangel Will Likely Survive

Despite facing a thirteen-count ethics complaint, Charlie Rangel probably isn't going anywhere.

While the political media breathlessly reports the details of the ethics charges against Congressman Charlie Rangel and speculate over his fate, Jazz Shaw points out at Pajamas Media that, absent expulsion, Rangel is likely to hold on to his seat:

Don’t count on any significant backlash from the voters. Rangel’s various ethical problems have been well known for a long time now, but he continues to win reelection with astronomical margins. Take a look at the map of New York’s 15th District some time. Unlike many vast, rural districts around the nation, the 15th is one of the most compact you will find. It runs along a roughly seven mile stretch of the Hudson River, taking in Fort George, Harlem, and Marcus Garvey, as well as grabbing a few plots of land out near LaGuardia Airport.

Most people could comfortably walk the length and breadth of this district in a single sunny afternoon, and Charlie has walked it many, many times over the last forty years. He knows residents and business owners on a first name basis. He has followed the tried and true New York political playbook, making sure that every resident is made aware of each bit of federal pork money he brings home. He gets his name plastered all over everything from buildings at City College to bus stops along Broadway. He ensures that the correct wheels — and palms — are greased and that the right people get free tickets to see the Knicks and the Giants. In short, he’s been playing this game a long time and he’s a master of it.


In short, none of this should be taken as an indication that the Republicans are about to pick off an extra House seat in NY-15.

Perhaps not a Republican seat but there might be a possibility that these charges could have an impact on Rangel in the upcoming September Democratic Primary:

(July 22) — Word that Democrat Charlie Rangel will face a trial in the House of Representatives on charges of ethics violations may spell trouble for the veteran New York congressman in his primary contest against New York State Assemblyman Adam Clayton Powell IV.

Rangel, who defeated Powell’s famous father, Adam Clayton Powell Jr., in the 1970 Democratic primary, had been expected to win the Sept. 14 contest to become the party nominee. But a poll taken less than a week before today’s announcement by the House shows that support among Democrats may be shifting to Powell.

According to Public Policy Polling, 39 percent of those surveyed said they would vote for Rangel in the primary, while 21 percent said they’d vote for Powell. Perhaps more worrisome than the rather tepid showing for the incumbent, however, is the finding that 24 percent of voters remain undecided. A high-publicity trial in the House may not do much to sway those voters toward Rangel.

This is Charlie Rangel we’re talking about, though, and he knows what it takes to win in a district he’s represented since Richard Nixon was President and he’s running in a primary that seems designed to guarantee that he wins:

Right now, five candidates will appear on the primary ballot, and they are all decidedly B-list — at best. Start with Rangel’s chief challenger, Assemblyman Adam Clayton Powell IV. On paper, he’s the perfect choice: His father, for whom a main artery running through the heart of Harlem is named, represented the district for years, before being ousted by Rangel in 1970. In fact, Powell tried to challenge Rangel once before, back in 1994, a race he lost by a two-to-one margin.


Besides Powell, there are three lesser-known candidates: Vincent Morgan, who once worked for Rangel; Joyce Johnson, who has waged losing campaigns for City Council and the state legislature; and Jonathan Tasini, who is best-known for his hopeless challenge to Hillary Clinton in a 2006 U.S. Senate primary. None of them have the resources to break through and win — but all of them, taken together, have the potential to gobble up anti-Rangel votes that would otherwise go to Powell. Their presence lowers the bar for Rangel: He can probably survive with 40 to 45 percent of the vote.

Since the poll referenced above already has him at 39 percent, I’d say Rangel is safe on September 14th.

Expulsion, then, would be the only way to get Rangel out of office but, as Ed Morrissey notes, that option seems to already be off the table:

WASHINGTON – A House investigator says the panel handling Rep. Charlie Rangel’s ethics case has recommended a reprimand by the full House — but that decision could be months away.

Rep. Gene Green, who’s on the subcommittee that investigated the New York Democrat, says that’s the recommended penalty for the 20-term New York Democrat. Rangel is facing 13 charges of wrongdoing.

A reprimand. The same penalty that Joe Wilson got for yelling “You Lie” during a Presidential speech last September. It’s barely even a slap on the wrist

FILED UNDER: 2010 Election, Congress, US Politics, , , , , , , , , , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. “Yawn”.
    A bunch of weasles having fun with another weasle, chiding him for getting caught -again- in the hen house.
    and the story will appear in  the “Style” section of the WaPo, 3 days after the ‘wist swapping’ he’ll allegedly receive.
    Too bad they won’t remove him, and his pipeline of re-distribution back to his district. That’d piss off the trough-feeders back home.
    Good thing he’s a lefty/D, or we’d be hearing about it all  – and I mean all – day long with the bubbleheads on the news.

  2. EJM says:

    This is what we’re up against folks.
    Congress has an 11% approval rating. By almost 2 to 1 Americans say the country is headed in the wrong direction. We are supposed to be heading for a “wave” election in which incumbents are in fear for their political lives. Yet a 40 year incumbent who has been accused by his own peers of tax evasion, shakedowns and cronyism, will not be either censured or removed, either by the most ethical ever Congress or the voters of his one-party district.
    Wonder why these guys are so arrogant? Nothing can touch them, and they know it. They are an aristocracy above the law. Why should they care about reckless spending, deficits or debt? The more bacon they bring home to their district at taxpayer expense, the more powerful and invulnerable they are.
    This is why we need a constitutional amendment that reads something like:
    “No member of Congress who has been a member of Congress for ten consecutive years in which the federal budget has been unbalanced shall be eligible to re-election to Congress.”

  3. lemonttaylor says:

    This is little like rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic, BUT, if Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. is the father, how come this is Adam Clayton Powell the fourth?

  4. Mwalimu Daudi says:

    It’s not certain that Rangel will even get a letter of reprimand. Democrats are already facing a tough situation in November, and Rangel knows this. A public ethics trials would be a PR disaster, since it would (1) anger black voters who shriek “Racism”! at the slightest criticism of their leadership, and (2) it would remind the public that Democrats have not exactly drained the swamp.

    By stalling Rangel has already reduced his punishment to a worthless letter of reprimand. No doubt Good Times Charlie believes that he can run the tables and dodge even that slap on the wrist. His titanic ego demands it, and he will probably get what he wants.

    Democrats plan to play the race card this November. Any punishment of Rangel could cause trouble with black voters, which would upset that strategy. Therefore, I predict he will not get any punishment whatsoever. Republicans who point this out will be branded as racists, and the hope is that the GOP will do what it usually does in the face of Democrat race-baiting – fold.