After two months in seclusion with an ailing back, Congressman Charles Rangel made his first public appearance Monday morning and reaffirmed he’s running for re-election.
Rangel, who had not been seen in public and had missed more than 100 votes in the House of Representatives since February 9, re-emerged at a small business forum in Harlem.
He was using a walker to help him get around because of his bad back but insisted his health issues would not sidetrack his campaign.
“I’m beaten up on by antibiotics. But no, there’s a date certain that I’ll be up and around and enjoying the campaign,” said Rangel.
Rangel said he welcomes the other contenders in the race but said he intends to win and serve a full-term, contrary to speculation he might step aside and try to install his friend, Assemblyman Keith Wright, as his successor.
"If went to my constituents and asked for two more years, it means that they trust me enough to serve for two years," Rangel said. "There’s no one that I love dearer more than Keith. He’s worked hard. But elections are elections. But I wish people would not infer that I’m crooked, and I plan to develop some plan where you vote for me, and you’re gonna get Keith in the morning. I mean, that’s not right."
Rangel has represented Harlem in Congress for more than 40 years, but congressional districts were recently redrawn, and his district now extends into the Bronx and is for the first time majority Hispanic.
State Senator Adriano Espaillat is among several Democrats seeking to topple Rangel. He would become the first Dominican-American elected to Congress.
On Tuesday, Espaillat was endorsed by former Rangel aide Vincent Morgan, who is dropping out of the race.
Another potential challenger, former Rangel aide Vincent Morgan, dropped out of the race and endorsed Espaillat Tuesday.
At one point, Rangel appeared to tweak Espaillat without mentioning him by name.
“Some people jump the gun because of their ambitions. Others jump the gun because so many people encourage them to do it,” said Rangel.
During a wide-ranging press conference backed by supporters, the congressman also warned against divisive campaign tactics.
“Before we get involved in who’s black and who’s white and who’s running for what, let’s try to make certain that when this campaign is over, that there’s no permanent damage being done politically,” said Rangel.
Meanwhile, another Dominican-American elected official, Manhattan Assemblyman Guillermo Linares, stood behind Rangel Tuesday, but later downplayed the significance.
“I am here in an official capacity. I have not made a decision who I am supporting,” said Linares.
Time is short, as the congressional primary takes place on June 26.