- The Washington Times - Sunday, April 7, 2002

NEW YORK Rep. Charles B. Rangel, trimmer by 25 pounds and no less gregarious than he was 32 years go when he first took his seat in Congress, is gearing up for his 17th run. If the Democrats win the House this year and some would say that's a big "if" Mr. Rangel, representing Harlem's 15th Congressional District, is expected to become chairman of the powerful Ways and Means Committee. "Absolutely nothing could change that," he said in an interview. "I've worked hard for it and have complete support."
Mr. Rangel says that although it would be premature to predict the future of his party's position on the tax cuts implemented under President Bush, he is "not thinking about changing the law as it exists." Some Democrats, including Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, have called for a rollback or cancellation of the tax cuts that amount to $1.35 billion over 10 years.
According to some political sources, Mr. Rangel's confidence in winning the chairman's position was somewhat shaken after he questioned publicly the qualifications of Democrat Andrew Cuomo, who wants to be the party's nominee in the governor's race. He left some doubt as to whom he would support, Mr. Cuomo or Republican Gov. George E. Pataki.
Last week, however, Mr. Rangel insisted that it was all a misunderstanding and that he would support the Democratic candidate, be it Mr. Cuomo, or State Comptroller H. Carl McCall, who stands a chance to be the state's first black governor.
The Amsterdam News, an influential Harlem newspaper, said Mr. Rangel had been pressured by both Mr. Cuomo's father, former New York Gov. Mario M. Cuomo, and members of the Kennedy family. Mr. Cuomo is married to Kerry Kennedy, daughter of the late Sen. Robert Kennedy. Mr. Rangel did confirm that he had received a call from the senior Cuomo questioning his remarks. He added, "They have nothing to do with internal decisions made by the House of Representatives. It is not influenced by the outside."
New York County Republican leader Andrew S. Eristoff recalls walking along 126th Street in Harlem recently and being struck by the boarded-up buildings and vacant lots strewn with garbage. "Everyone talks about 125th Street and new investment, but one block up it just looks terrible, neglected," he said, adding that he would like to see a public discussion on the Upper Manhattan Empowerment Zone Development Corp., a project fathered by Mr. Rangel.
"It received millions upon millions to revive Harlem. Where did the money go?" Mr. Eristoff asked. Former President Clinton has set up his office on 125th Street.
Many political observers believe that Rep. Adam Clayton Powell IV, son of the legendary Adam Clayton Powell Jr., who lost his seat to Mr. Rangel in 1970, may one day challenge him. Mr. Powell, who ran unsuccessfully against Mr. Rangel in 1994, cited three reason for that defeat: Mr. Rangel's campaign war chest; a feeling among voters that his stewardship of the Empowerment Zone would benefit them; and the possibility that he would run the influential Ways and Means Committee.
"He had the entire machine, all the elected officials," Mr. Powell said. "He tried to knock me off the ballot but we survived. Every two years it's a thought; one can never say never, but not this time."


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