Wrangling with Rangel, the elections board, redistricting and even voters
Is it too late to complain about Rep. Charlie Rangel? Or the Board of Elections? Or the way people voted last month?
I thought it was, given that the congressional primary election was held June 26. That night, we learned that Rangel had beaten back a serious challenge from State Sen. Adriano Espaillat.
Or we thought we’d learned that. As I write this, though, the Rangel lead over Espaillat has narrowed considerably. The June primary is making July news.
Now it turns out that the Board of Elections, consistent with its ongoing efforts to screw up, did not report correctly the early returns. Everybody is ripping into the board—and rightly so. But our state, local and legal leaders need to actually do something. Wanted: a system for tallying ballots that is both accurate and reasonably fast. Then we can go back to worrying about the quality of the candidates, like Rangel, who has become, sad to say, a considerable embarrassment.
His ethical lapses include improperly using his office to raise funds from businesses and, my personal favorite, not paying taxes for 17 years on a rental property in the Dominican Republic. His ability to function effectively has been seriously hampered, but our political elites gutlessly lined up for him during his recent re-election bid.
But who really deserves the disdain in all of this? Voters. They finally got a congressional primary that mattered and most still could not be bothered to participate.
I couldn’t participate. After the lines got redrawn, I moved out of Rangel’s 15th Congressional District without even leaving my apartment. Nobody ever sent me anything about how my congressional district has changed—I googled it. Repeatedly. Then a smart neighbor told me Google was right.
Now I’m living in the district of Rep. Jerrold Nadler. He’s fairly verbose. I once saw him almost talk his way through a fire drill. I was interviewing him and people were leaving the building. It was awkward; he just kept speaking. At least he says smart things, like when he saved Bill Clinton’s butt during the impeachment hearings.
Even living in a new district, I kept getting calls from the campaign of Clyde Williams, another Rangel challenger. “I’m getting your mailings and your messages,” I told the staffer, “but I’m not in the district any more. You really need not to waste money and time on me.”
The Rangel race amounted to one frustration after another, and it contains lessons for people all over town. First off, we could have used a little less clubhouse politicking on the part of Rangel’s supporters, who should have known better, and more from his opponents, because there were too many of them. They split the anti-Rangel vote. They needed to get in a room and decide who was going to run.
I get that Rangel delivers for his district. He votes well, which is not nothing. Certainly, when I moved into his district, I was thrilled to support someone with a keen understanding of congressional maneuvering, a progressive unafraid to do the horse-trading of an effective legislator. Eagerly, I backed an esteemed veteran as he took the chairmanship of the House Ways and Means Committee. I thought Rangel rocked. But hey…my excuse is I was coming from Jersey. Even today, Rangel is the least embarrassing congressman I’ve ever had.
Unfortunately, that’s not saying much.
Christopher Moore is a writer living in Manhattan. He’s available through email at email@example.com and on Twitter @cmoorenyc.
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