Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Why Charles Rangel Won

I live in the Upper Manhattan neighborhood of Harlem. I moved here two years ago and since then, I've watched my 6 block radius (favorite area) transform dramatically. On a Friday evening when my friends ask to meet for drinks, I sway them uptown to my favorite bars or restaurant. When I need something, I try my best to support the small businesses in the area. I can confidently say that about 85% of my business dealings are within Harlem. Even though I hate my building (mostly the tenants), when I think about moving, I realize that I really don't want to leave Harlem. 

I participated in the 2010 midterm election in Harlem, and I remember that race being labeled as a tough race for Charles Rangel. Fast forward to 2012 and I was not at all surprised that Rangel faced challengers once again and was placed in what was considered an extremely tough race. Prior to watching NY1 Tuesday morning over breakfast; I was only aware of two candidates challenging Congressman Rangel - Clyde Williams and Craig Schley. I have been a bit behind on local news. However, it was news to my ears that New York State Senator Adriano Espaillat was in the race as well, and labeled a front runner to Charlie Rangel. 

Huh? Why didn't I know about Senator Espaillat?

The reason that I didn't know about Senator Espaillat's candidacy, is because he didn't want me to know about his candidacy. Not one single sign appears in my area in support of Espaillat. I never received any literature about his candidacy or even heard of him until Tuesday morning. However, when I watched the news coverage prior to voting, Espaillat was shown campaigning rigorously in Washington Heights and the Bronx.  Yes you guessed correctly - those areas are largely populated by latino voters.  No problem. If that's how Senator Espaillat wants to play the game - fine with me. Obviously he doesn't understand the fundamentals of public service or being a politician. Espaillat through his campaign strategy made it very clear that he does not care to serve, nor did he have any concern about the non-latino voters. That's why I voted for Charles Rangel and that's why he won. 

Clyde Williams and Craig Schley both set up their campaign headquarters on my block, so I was fully aware of their campaigns. Clyde Williams appeared to be the only candidate who was organized and properly funded enough to be some sort of a strong contender, but Williams lacks basic knowledge of campaigning. Charlie Rangel has been in office for 42-years. If you want to defeat someone who has been in office for that long, it takes more than setting up shop, passing out fliers or posting your photo around. People need to know who you are and what you stand for. On two seperate occasions I requested an interview with Mr. Williams for this blog. Both times in person and both times I was told that someone would get back to me and no one ever did. Also, Mr. Williams was not at his campaign headquarters either time I stopped by. I wonder where he was. 

The best grassroots local campaigner I have ever seen, is Cory Booker. If you don't know what I am talking about just watch the Oscar Nominated Documentary "Street Fight" or Season 2 of "Brick City." These politicians could stand to watch both and learn a thing or two about campaigning against a veteran incumbent. 

Many will argue that it's time for Rangel to step down and give someone else the opportunity to represent the district. Do I believe this to be true? ABSOLUTELY! However, I am not prepared to give this seat to someone I don't know or to someone who lacks the gravitas to go to DC, "Do The Right Thing" and truly represent all the people of this very diverse district. If you don't even know how to run a race, how can I trust that you will know how to work in Congress. 

Here is why Charlie Rangel won. 
Clyde Williams was a huge disappointment from the very beginning and never stood a chance. Mr. Williams announced his candidacy in March. That was his first mistake. When you plan to unseat a veteran like Charles Rangel, you make the election and campaigning a full-time and fully vested job. That means you announce two-years to eighteen months out the gate and begin staging a platform. Most importantly, get to know the people. Clyde Williams or whoever wants to unseat Congressman Rangel, should make it their priority to canvass the entire district, and you can do that if you give yourself enough time. Hold town halls, conference call, gather people at your headquarters for coffee - and for goodness sakes, be at your damn headquarters. Hold open office hours and give people the opportunity to get to know you. The district was redrawn and you now have new constituents - get to know them as well. The reason why Charlie Rangel continues to win, is because people know who he is. 

Clyde Williams tried to run on his connections. He is married to Mona Sutphen, (former White House Deputy Chief of Staff to President Obama) and he worked for Bill Clinton. Listen, I don't give a F&*K who your wife is or who you worked for. What are you going to do for me? What are you going to do to improve District 13 and our country? Because Williams failed to use these basic fundamentals of campaigning, he weakened his position and gave an opening to Espaillat to jump into the race, one month prior to the election. Espaillat attempted to capitalize on the redrawn district and new Latino majority. He failed miserably because he too lacked all the things I've described above. 

Bottomline! When the right candidate comes forward and runs a truly inclusive grassroots campaign, Charlie Rangel will be unseated. Until then, I need to amateurs to stop wasting our time. 

What do you think.....

1. Why did Charlie Rangel win?
2. Can  a candidate be taken seriously, when they campaign over such a short period of time?
3. How can Charles Rangel or any veteran incumbent be defeated?
4. If you live in New York City/Harlem, what were your thoughts on this race. 

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