At around 8:30 on Friday night-an hour and a half after guests first started arriving-Congressman Charles Rangel sauntered into the fluorescent hallway of the Cathedral Parkway Towers in Harlem. He was wearing a white jacket and a broad smile, noticeably glad to be back among his friends at the Martin Luther King Jr. Democratic Club after a couple of rough weeks.
“This is my home base,” Mr. Rangel told the Transom with a smile, as he exchanged hugs near the ticket table for the club’s closed-press fund-raiser at the club he had founded 46 years before.
“I’m praying for you,” one woman whispered into his ear.
Out front, Rangel posters-“HE DELIVERS”-sandwiched the light poles on West 109th Street, and, on the trunk of a parked car, supporters penned words of encouragement on a campaign sign. Inside, a DJ played a few old Michael Jackson songs, along with some more recent R&B, while caterers filed in with chicken and rice piled on styrofoam plates. Other electeds were already there shaking hands: Comptroller John Liu, Assemblyman Keith Wright, State Senators Eric Schneiderman and Bill Perkins. And some challengers: Mr. Perkins’ opponent, Basil Smikle, came in with his adviser Rodney Capel. Attorney general hopeful Sean Coffey was there earlier, but had already left for Yankee Stadium, to catch what was left of the Yankees and Red Sox. As of 9 p.m., Governor Paterson was still rumored to be on his way, though no one seemed quite sure if he was actually coming. (“He told me he was coming,” said one legislator, “but he’s told me a lot of things.”)
“It’s the heart of my heart politically,” Mr. Rangel later told the Transom. “Our clubs in central Harlem-at least the club I have been a part of-is more of a service center than a political club. It comes out of the tradition of very strong district leaders,” he said.
“I’m trying to think of any fights we’ve had-white community, black community, Puerto Rican community, Dominican community. When we meet, it’s like a homecoming,” he said. “We’ve got some problems now because the Dominican community wants to move on to the [State] Senate. But I don’t remember having any emotional primary fights.”
Shortly after Mr. Rangel went inside, Assemblyman Herman “Denny” Farrell arrived with his young daughter.
“Who are we here to see?” he asked her, as she buried her face in his pant leg. “Who are we here to see?”
When she finally peeked her head out, she said, “Charlie Rangel.”
On Sunday morning, things weren’t as cheery. Mr. Rangel’s face was on the wood of the Post, under the headline “FUNDER STORM,” with a story about some federal money he directed to the nonprofit Alianza Dominicana.
At a crowded breakfast in Washington Heights before the Dominican Day parade, a loud, crowd-quieting whistle went up. And then another, followed by Mr. Rangel’s gravelly voice.
“There’s a nice young lady here from the New York Post asking questions about Alianza Dominicana,” he announced to the room, before recruiting a few elected officials to join him in the center of the room, where they spent a few minutes attacking the Post for running the story on the morning of the Dominican Day Parade. The Post reporter stood behind him with her recorder.
“You picked on a giant,” Mr. Rangel told her after the room had resumed its coffee and eggs. “I might not have done this for The Times or the News because from time to time, they’re fair-that’s probably by mistake.”
He got a cup of coffee with milk.
“My lawyers would be so pissed with me,” he told the Transom. “You attack me, what the hell? I don’t like it, but to do that to the community?” He shook his head.
Later, the electeds rallied again at the back of the restaurant, this time with a bigger group and a bullhorn.
“Our community has been under attack and we’re going to fight back!” Assemblyman Adriano Espaillat, the host of the breakfast, yelled through the bullhorn. Mr. Rangel agreed.
Just before he left, Mr. Rangel approached the Post reporter again.
“I said something nice about the Post,” he told her with a big grin.
“When?” she asked.
“Just then,” he said. “That guy said I’ve never seen this kind of unity from competing politicians. I said a lot of it has to do with the New York Post. Like any family, we have differences, we have arguments. When a family’s under attack, something happens. There’s a feeling that we gotta get through this one. Once we win, we’ll go back and have arguments.”