Jonathan Tasini dropped off nearly 6,500 signatures at the Board of Election today, and then, in an interview, launched into a broad attack on the man he is hoping to replace, embattled Congressman Charlie Rangel.
“The number one contributor to Charlie Rangel has been real estate interests,” Tasini said. “If you are worried about gentrification in Harlem, or losing your home, Charlie Rangel is responsible. You are being driven from your home due to the real estate interests that are funding him.”
According to Open Secrets, real estate interests have given Rangel over $800,000 since 1989, a hefty sum to be sure, but less than he has received from the insurance, financial, and legal professsions.
Tasini also called Rangel a “corporate Democrat,” and said that he wanted to be a Congressman in the mold of a Maxine Waters or Maryland’s Donna Edwards.
“Rangel is beatable. Nobody wants to be an incumbent with the dysfunctional nature of this Congress.”
Tasini was originally in a primary race against Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, but dropped out because he said he could not raise enough money to be competive. The longtime labor activist said he expects to have only $23,000 on hand in his most recent filing, but is planning a big-ticket fundraiser at the “swanky” home of Liz Newman on Central Park West. Plus, he notes that the 15th congressional district is the nation’s smallest by geography, so a campaign can be run by walking the streets and knocking on doors.
“See this tan,” he said, pointing at his face. “That’s not from the beach.”
Tasini faces an uphill battle in trying to unseat Rangel, who has not faced a serious primary since 1994 and who often wins with Castro-like totals. He says that he hopes to do well in the Upper West Side portions of the district, and is hoping for coattails from Eric Schneiderman’s attorney general race, since he and Schneiderman share many of the same progressive base of voters.
Community banker Vince Morgan, former Seagram’s exec Joyce Johnson, and state assemblyman Adam Clayton Powell IV are also all in the race. Powell is expected to do well in East Harlem, so Tasini would need a major push by Morgan and Johnson in Central Harlem to have a shot of beating Rangel.
Tasini is a longtime renter in Washington Heights, (“just one apartment,” he quips) and believes that Rangel held his kickoff press conference there in an attempt to steal votes from Tasini’s home turf.
If Tasini wins, it would represent a sea-change for a neighborhood that is an internationally recognized home of African-American culture.
“Whether you are white or black or brown, you need somebody who can stand up to corporate interests,” he said.