Published in
The Empire

'You Sound Like My Designee'

If there's any affection between Rep. Charlie Rangel and any of the candidates looking to oust him, I'd say it's Vince Morgan.

In his closing statement at a recent debate, Morgan - who once worked for Rangel - says "I know you've done a good job in certain respects but we need someone who is going to carry on at this point in your career, this hard work that you've done."

At the end of the clip - posted on YouTube by Morgan's campaign - you can hear Rangel say, "You sound like my designee."

You can basically line up the field of candidates in this race based on their relationship to the incumbent:

Assemblyman Adam Clayton Powell IV: his dad was ousted by Rangel, and he's running as a repudiation of Rangel's positions that Powell says are not in sync with the White House (mostly on the war). Powell often invokes Obama's name in an attempt to show the wedge that sometimes exists between Rangel and the president.

Jonathan Tasini: the labor activist agrees with Rangel's nuanced position on the war (Range wants to reinstate the draft as a protest maneuver), but Tasini blames Rangel's votes on NAFTA and other trade and real estate deals for gentrifying the district. Tasini is also seeking to tie Rangel's ethical woes into a larger conversation about why Washington hasn't been responsive to the neediest people in the district.

Joyce Johnson: a business entrepreneur who has sought to get above the fray of the bitter fighting on the campaign trail. She's reserved judgment on key issues, like the war, saying she'll learn more about it from experts once in office. She's also had a lukewarm assessment of how the stimulus package has impacted New York. The goal, it appears, is to appear pragmatic, positive, and act as a receptacle of votes for everyone turned off by the Rangel-Powell slugfest.

Vince Morgan: as the head of a local small business association, he's often talking about the economy and job creation. He's also made direct reference to the district's changing demographics over the last four decades, and argued that he reflects today's Harlem better than Rangel. Morgan's small-business focus is, in many ways, the opposite of Tasini's more traditional progressive agenda. Morgan has also painted Rangel as someone who's career has come to a natural end, not someone who's tenure needs to be immediately reversed.