MURDOCK: A Republican in Harlem

Michel Faulkner could upend Rangel with conservative play

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”I am not going away,” 40-year veteran Rep. Charles B. Rangel told House colleagues Tuesday. “You’re not going to tell me to resign to make you feel comfortable,” the 80-year-old New York Democrat added in an unfocused jeremiad in which he defended himself against the House ethics committee’s 13 charges. It said Mr. Rangel’s “pattern of indifference or disregard for the laws, rules and regulations of the United States and the House of Representatives is a serious violation.”

Among many things, Mr. Rangel allegedly failed to declare “his ownership of vacant lots in New Jersey” and neither disclosed nor paid taxes on rental income from a Dominican condo. All told, the committee stated, Mr. Rangel “brought discredit to the House.”

Michel Faulkner hopes Harlemites have had enough. The 53-year-old ordained Baptist minister and former Virginia Tech All-American footballer seeks to unseat Mr. Rangel - as a Republican. And a black one at that.

“I must have shaken 1,000 hands yesterday,” he said over gazpacho Monday at Bill’s Gay Nineties, a former speakeasy on Midtown Manhattan’s West 54th Street.

“Wouldn’t it be nice if the poor kicked the liberals out of their lives?” Mr. Faulkner smiles. “Imagine if they told them: ‘We don’t want you to be our pimps anymore.’ “

Mr. Faulkner wants to reverse four decades of Mr. Rangel’s big-government activism. Mr. Faulkner proudly signed Americans for Tax Reform’s “no new taxes” pledge. He also decried the death tax, which is set to skyrocket from zero to 55 percent come 2011.

“If the late George Steinbrenner had died next January,” Mr. Faulkner says, “his family would have to sell the Yankees just to pay the death tax.”

Mr. Faulkner sees Obamacare as a stillbirth that should be sped off to the morgue.

“The bill was a crime against America,” says Mr. Faulkner, whose 6-foot-3-inch frame boosts his air of authority. “It dangled some things in the faces of people who needed health coverage. And then it politicized the whole thing. I hate this law more every day.”

If elected, Mr. Faulkner says, he would gather entrepreneurs and ask them for advice on reinvigorating the economy. “The problem is that bureaucrats are trying to create jobs,” Mr. Faulkner says. “They know nothing about creating jobs.”

Mr. Faulkner has launched the Jobs Now Party. It will give voters an additional ballot line on which to support Mr. Faulkner without pulling the Republican lever.

“Friends of mine have told me, ‘I love you. I believe in you. But I just cannot vote Republican,’ ” Mr. Faulkner laments. If these and his Republican and Conservative Party votes compose a plurality, he becomes Harlem’s new pro-market conservative congressman.

That, of course, is far easier said than done. Among 435 congressional districts, the Cook Political Report ranks New York’s 15th as America’s second most overwhelmingly Democratic. John Kerry won 90 percent of its vote in 2004, while Mr. Obama captured 93 percent on Nov. 4, 2008. That night, 89 percent of voters granted Mr. Rangel his 20th term.

If Mr. Rangel survives his Democratic primary against State Assemblyman Adam Clayton Powell IV - whose father Mr. Rangel ousted when he won his seat in 1970 - he anticipates a House ethics trial in which he will fight like a cornered porcupine. This entire escapade will unfold in living color, just weeks before Election Day. Top Democrats already are running from Mr. Rangel who, after all these years, has the whiff of mothballs about him. Voters may find Mr. Faulkner’s honest face an appealing alternative to a dodgy political hack decades past his “sell by” date.

If that seems likely, top Democrats most likely will clamp pliers on their noses and ride to Mr. Rangel’s rescue. Whether Mr. Rangel’s alleged ethical shortcomings drive voters to flush the collective toilet will be one of this fall’s most riveting narratives.

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