It’s just politics!
That’s how Adam Clayton Powell IV brushed aside questions today about why he is endorsing longtime Congressman Charlie Rangel for re-election — after running against him (and thus frequently and harshly criticizing him) in a crowded race two years ago.
In one of the most watched local congressional races, Rangel, the incumbent who has held his Harlem seat for 40 years, is facing tough opposition in the primary as he fights to be re-elected to Congress to represent a newly-drawn district that now includes parts of the Bronx and has a larger Latino population.
Standing on Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Boulevard and 125th Street, in front of the Adam Clayton Powell Jr. State Office Building and Adam Clayton Powell Jr. statue, Adam Clayton Powell IV joined Rangel and a crowd of supporters today to officially endorse the incumbent, who will face opposition from several others in the upcoming June primary, notably State Senator Adriano Espaillat, who has nabbed the endorsements of several prominent Latino political figures.
“We have never had any animosity, unlike the perceived animosity from some in the public and in the media,” Powell, who also ran against Rangel in the 90s, said at the start of his speech.
“We have always been friends. And even when I ran against him in 1994, he gave me a ride home. Even when I ran against him in 2010, we both met at an event, and we both rode in his car to the next event, so we’ve always been friends,” he said, prompting loud cheers from the Rangel supporters standing behind.
“Despite twice having run against him myself, I am here to state clearly and unequivocally, that I will be supporting Charlie Rangel,” he added.
Rangel, who is 81 and has struggled recently with health problems, spent much of his speech praising Powell IV’s father.
City Councilwoman Inez Dickens, a Harlem pol and big Rangel supporter, underscored the flip-flop of Powell IV’s support today, saying, “I differed with him when he ran against Congressman Rangel, twice, I did. I fought hard, but…now we’re on the same team and we will continue to be on the same team.”
When a Times reporter asked what the significance of endorsements are in this race (which seems to have become a race to snag endorsements), Rangel said, “They are putting their credibility on the line saying, ‘You may not know Charlie Rangel. You may not have met him. You may not have lived in his district…but I have been out there and I know these people.'”
Earlier this month, Mayor Bloomberg, who has endorsed Rangel in the past, declined to officially do so at this point in the campaigns.
When asked about criticisms that he has been in office for too long, Rangel brushed aside his opponents, saying, “You may not like me after 40 years, but the question has to be, who is going to better protect you? … If not me, who?”
This prompted chants of “Charlie! Charlie! Charlie!” from behind him.
Facing further questions about why Powell has come around in support of Rangel, Powell said that it’s meaningful that he didn’t run this time: “Even the lack of entering a race is a matter of choice…You can’t turn back the clock, but you can wind it up again, and that’s what we are doing today…At this present time, Adam Powell stands for Charlie Rangel.”
Two years ago, Powell went after Rangel for his high-profile ethics investigation, calling him “corrupt,” and saying had his father witnessed Rangel’s career, he “would be turning over in his grave.”
After the event, Powell told reporters, “His record is not perfect. Nobody’s is…At this point, he’s the best choice that we have. It doesn’t mean that he’s perfect…It doesn’t mean I’m in love with him, it just means he’s the best candidate that we have.”
Does Powell no longer believe his criticisms of Rangel from two years ago?
“That when I was running! I’m not running now, so back then, I was the best choice,” Powell said. “Today, in 2012, Charlie Rangel is the best choice.”