The event was a public endorsement of Congressman Charles Rangel by his former primary opponent, Adam Clayton Powell IV. But standing below the statue of Adam Clayton Powell, Jr., at the corner of 125th Street and Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. Boulevard, next to Adam Clayton Powell, Jr.’s son, Rangel introduced his endorser by way of heaping praise on the man he beat in 1970 to get into Congress: Adam Clayton Powell, Jr.
“For me it’s an emotional thing, in order to have his son to endorse me,” Rangel said, referring to Adam Clayton Powell IV, who stood next to him. “It allows me to reinforce what I’ve always said: nobody has been as great as Adam Clayton Powell the congressman. People like me can only follow the courageous lead he's taken, not only in Harlem, not only in our country, but throughout the world.”
For his part, former city councilman and assemblyman Powell said the congressman had asked him for his endorsement after he’d indicated he was voting for Rangel. Powell said the two had never had an acrimonious relationship, despite two separate attempts (1994 and 2010) to unseat Rangel.
“Despite 42 years ago, the heat of primary battle between my father and Charlie Rangel; despite twice having run against him myself; I’m here to state clearly and unequivocally that I will be supporting Charlie Rangel for the United States Congress this year,” Powell said, going on to call Rangel “the best choice that we have today.”
Powell’s endorsement comes as a twofer for his reelection campaign. On the one hand adding the Powell name to his roster of backers provides a historical lift in the narrative of his own historic career. Conjuring Powell, the supporter—with all the genuflection and diminishment required in the presence of such a powerful political name and history—is much better than Powell, the man you beat to get into office.
But there’s also the added benefit of having by your side the person who, last time around, worked to convince voters your time was up. If he’s able to have a change of heart, why shouldn’t Rangel’s skeptics in the district?
Powell has already decided the compressed primary season and the lack of the sort of voter discontent ethics allegations can create have made Rangel invincible, despite the post-redistrict demographics shift that favors—on paper at least—a Latino candidate.
He’s said he’s interested in another shot at Congress, possibly as early as 2014. If Rangel beats his four primary opponents—including the formidable state senator, Adriano Espaillat—the deck is cleared for an open primary when Rangel finally ends his congressional career. Being on the side of the victor this year could pay dividends for a future Powell campaign looking for support from a retiring Charlie Rangel.
Standing side-by-side on Wednesday, both Rangel and Powell were surely counting on the benefits of evoking that powerful family name.