Inside The Harlem Political Clubs Pushing For Charlie Rangel

The Martin Luther King Jr. Democratic Club (Photo:

The network of Democratic clubs in Harlem that gave Congressman Charlie Rangel his start hope they can secure him a 22nd term. Harlem’s political clubs have spawned several other notable New York politicians including former Mayor David Dinkins, ex-governor David Paterson and Mr. Rangel’s predecessor in the House of Representatives, Adam Clayton Powell Jr. The political landscape in Upper Manhattan has changed quite a bit over the years and the district Mr. Rangel is vying to represent now includes the predominantly Latino areas of Washington Heights and Inwood, which his main opponent, Adriano Espaillat, represents in the State Senate. In a race that’s expected to have low turnout, the members of Harlem’s democratic clubs are working hard to ensure their neighborhood comes out in full force for Mr. Rangel.

Mr. Rangel’s home club is the Martin Luther King Jr. Democratic Club where he is district leader along with Councilwoman Inez Dickens, who Mr. Rangel is fond of referring to as his “political wife.” When we arrived at the club this afternoon, Ms. Dickens was there along with several other supporters coordinating efforts. A poster on the front of the club proclaimed, “Remember, Charles Rangel helps us. Now it’s our time to help him.” One man stood outside on a cellphone trying to instill urgency in another campaign volunteer.

“Is there going to be a presence on the street?” he asked. “Because you don’t see shit out here.”

The man declined to discuss the campaign with The Politicker.

Ms. Dickens was more forthcoming. She said “there’s no doubt” there will be low voter turnout because “people are not acclimated to June being an election time,” but she was confident the club’s efforts would pay off.

“We are mobilizing our base of voters, our core supporters. They will be out. And, of course, every club member has their own base and we’re bringing out our base to come out and vote and support Congressman Rangel,” Ms. Dickens said.

Lynette Velasco, an aide to Ms. Dickens, was also at the club working on Mr. Rangel’s re-election effort (although she made sure to let us know that both she and Ms. Dickens took the day off from their official Council duties to avoid running afoul of the prohibition on mixing campaign and government work). Ms. Velasco said the early exit polls in Harlem looked “promising” for Mr. Rangel, however she said she hadn’t seen any numbers from the neighborhoods where Mr. Espaillat is strongest.

“We don’t know what’s going to happen, but we’ll see,” Ms. Velasco said.

About seven blocks away at the Frederick E. Samuel Democratic Club, where one of the district leaders is Mr. Rangel’s longtime ally, Assemblyman Keith Wright, a group of people was working surrounded by flyers for Mr. Rangel and boards listing the number of volunteers deployed at each polling station. A man was on the phone with another volunteer admonishing them for taking too much time in between missions. Wilma Brown, the club’s other district leader, told The Politicker that she and the others there working on Mr. Rangel’s campaign were not giving any interviews.

Inside The Harlem Political Clubs Pushing For Charlie Rangel