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HOME > Biographical > 100 New Yorkers of the 1970s > WESTSIDER CHARLES RANGEL
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Congressman of the 19th District


The dividing line of New York's 19th Congressional District twists and loops through upper Manhattan like a traveler who has lost his way. From the corner of 62nd Street and Central Park West, the boundary turns sharply at Amsterdam Avenue and extends northward to 164th Street, then follows the East River shoreline south to Roosevelt Island, taking in all of Harlem and a large chunk of the East Side.

This is the area that U.S. Congressman Charles Rangel has represented ever since he was sent to Washington in 1971, after defeating the colorful and controversial Adam Clayton Powell Jr. in the Democratic primary. Today, as firmly in control of the seat as Powell was during his height of popularity, Congressman Rangel stands virtually unopposed in his quest for a fifth term.

"I have received the Democratic endorsement, the Republican endorsement, and the Liberal endorsement," says Rangel one Friday afternoon at the towering State Office Building on 125th Street. "I am assuming that the Socialist Workers Party and the Communist Party will be filing. They normally do. In the last election I got 96.4 percent of the vote."

Whereas the late Powell had wide appeal only among the city's blacks, Rangel gained the support of many Harlem residents plus a large majority of liberal whites on the upper West Side. It was they who provided him with a 150-vote margin of victory over Powell in 1970. In the present 95th Congress, Rangel has had the most liberal voting record of any congressman from New York state. And while he has continued to give a great deal of attention to Harlem's problems of health care, unemployment and drugs, Rangel has recently had more demands placed on his time as a member of the powerful House Ways and Means Committee. The first black ever to serve on the committee, he is currently 11th in seniority and will be seventh in the next Congress.

In his New York office, where he generally spends two days per week, Rangel appears surprisingly fresh and relaxed at the end of a working day. As we settle into the interview, the elegantly dressed congressman with the graying moustache and the rasping voice proves himself very much the politician. He uses each question as a springboard to launch into his favorite topics — for example, his access to President Carter.

Because of his various committee assignments and his strong support of most of Carter's policies, says Rangel, "I am forced to meet with the president more than probably many other members of Congress. I often stop by the White House on my way to the office." Rangel also likes to talk about Chip Carter, the president's son, who is involved in a project called City in Schools, designed to upgrade the neighborhoods outside cer............
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