The New York Times on Saturday endorsed one of Rep. Charlie Rangel’s four opponents in the Sept. 14 Democratic primary over the embattled veteran incumbent who is facing a House ethics trial later this month.
The Times endorsed former Seagram’s executive and educator Joyce Johnson. The paper acknowledged Johnson has struggled in the primary, but chose to back the only woman in the race because she “has been a strong advocate for women’s rights and civil rights for many years.”
The Times endorsement could provide a financial boost for Johnson, who had just $10,000 in the bank as of Aug. 25. But at this stage in the race, even an immediate influx of cash is not likely to improve her chances of upsetting Rangel, who is still viewed as the favorite in the primary despite his ethics woes.
The other candidates running against Rangel are state Assemblyman Adam Clayton Powell IV, banker Vince Morgan and labor activist Jonathan Tasini. A fifth Democrat, Craig Schley, is running on the Independence Party line.
Powell is the best-known challenger in the race. His father and namesake was a longtime Harlem politician and Congressman whom Rangel defeated in the 1970 Democratic primary. But the Times wrote that Powell has done little during his time in the state Legislature, “even by Albany’s do-little standards.”
“He has shown no reason for voters to promote him,” the newspaper wrote.
Pre-primary fundraising reports filed on Thursday showed that Powell raised $44,000 from July 1 to Aug. 25.
He spent $37,000 and had $39,000 in the bank. Tasini raised $23,000, spent $24,000 and showed $17,000 on hand. Johnson raised $17,000 and spent $24,000 in the same period.
Rangel’s pre-primary report showed that he raised $404,000 in the almost two-month period. He spent $498,000, including $110,000 on legal fees. His campaign had $423,000 left in the bank as of Aug. 25.
Rangel faces an ethics trial this month when the House returns from the August recess. Last month, a subcommittee of the House ethics panel charged the Congressman with 13 counts of wrongdoing, including allegations that he misused federal resources to solicit donations for a City College of New York center named in his honor, accepted a rent-stabilized apartment for his campaign office, failed to pay taxes on a Dominican Republic villa and filed inaccurate financial disclosure forms.
Rangel has acknowledged some wrongdoing but has maintained he is not corrupt. He has shown no signs of stepping aside and not seeking re-election.
If Rangel were to resign after winning another term in November, it would ensure that Manhattan Democratic leaders — many of them loyal to the Congressman — would select the Democratic nominee for a special election to succeed him. The Times acknowledged that scenario in its endorsement.
“Mr. Rangel wants primarily to clear his name, but he has promised repeatedly that he would serve out his term if re-elected, even if the case is concluded before 2012, rather than pulling a common New York party trick by resigning early so Democrats could handpick his replacement for a quick, unnoticed special election” the Times wrote Saturday. “A better solution would be for voters to look seriously at the five people running against him now.”
The Times also endorsed Democratic Rep. Carolyn Maloney, who faces a competitive primary challenge from attorney Reshma Saujani in the 14th district, which is made up of portions of Manhattan and Queens.
“It is a bitter campaign with unpleasant charges from both sides. The two candidates should do a lot better for voters than snipe at each other,” the Times wrote. “But when the static has cleared, we see no good reason to discard Ms. Maloney. She has been a stalwart in fighting for women’s rights, financial reform, health care for workers at ground zero and better protections for credit card users.”
Rangel and Maloney are the only two New York incumbents who face notable competition in the Sept. 14 primaries. But the Empire State is expected to host several competitive general election races in November.