Basil Smikle, a political consultant trying to upend incumbent Democratic state Senator Bill Perkins in a closely watched primary, said today that he is standing by embattled Congressman Charlie Rangel.
“For me, personally, Charlie is a hero, and I want to be able to support a hero,” Smikle said. “If anyone has any issue with what Charlie has done they can speak their minds at the polls. I don’t think it’s appropriate for anyone to be forcing him out of office.”
Smikle said that Rangel and former mayor David Dinkins are the reason that he decided to join the Democratic Party, and he dismissed concerns that Rangel’s presence in the primary will hurt Democrats nationally–a charge leveled by one of Rangel’s congressional opponents, Jonathan Tasini.
“Nationally, Democrats have a lot more going on than Charlie Rangel,” he said.
Smikle’s comments come as Sen. Chuck Schumer and other senior Democrats have begun to distance themselves from Rangel.
Perkins, Smikle’s opponent, has frequently battled the Harlem establishment, and Smikle’s supporters have hoped that at the very least Rangel and his fellow Harlem Democrats will refrain from making an endorsement in the race.
Perkins did not return repeated requests for comment.