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Rep. Charles Rangel defies demographics, censure to win tough primary

Rep. Charles Rangel, an icon in Harlem, called on more than 40 years of a storied history – including bringing home the bacon as former chairman of a powerful House committee – to win a Democratic primary that all but assures victory in November.

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Clyde Williams, a former adviser to President Clinton, took third place, with 10.5 percent of the vote, and the other two candidates took less than 5 percent combined, according to unofficial numbers released by the board of elections. Muzzio says a good portion of that Williams vote could have gone to Espaillat, but probably not enough to win him the election.

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The 11 ethics violations that cost Rangel his chairmanship of the powerful Ways and Means Committee and, later, censure by the House in 2010 didn’t seem to make much of a difference.

After all these years on the job, many Harlem voters identify with Rangel, known as “the lion of Lenox Avenue.”

“I’m a Charlie man,” said Alfred Heyward, sitting at a bus stop by 125th Street and Fifth Avenue on Tuesday. “We know Charlie, Charlie’s been here for us, we’re not going to abandon him,” he said.

Rangel is also known for directing funds to the district. “He gives money to the community, and we need that for the children. He may be old, but I’m glad he’s still with us,” said Marie Brown, after she voted on Tuesday.

Rangel appeared energized in the televised portions of his victory celebration at Sylvia’s, a soul food restaurant founded in 1962 that many consider an icon of Harlem.

Rangel’s victory speech was aimed at silencing those who said it was time for new blood, including  The New York Times editorial board, which had endorsed Mr. Williams.

“If they didn’t think in the past 42 years that I wasn’t the best qualified, I promise them that in the next two years they’ll have no questions,” he said.  

The rest of New York’s primaries didn’t bring many surprises. New York Assembly member Hakeem Jeffries, a rising star, defeated Charles Barron, a famously divisive member of the City Council. In the statewide Republican primary to determine who will run against freshman US Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D), lawyer Wendy Long defeated Rep. Bob Turner (R), the surprise winner in a 2011 special election to replace disgraced Rep. Anthony Weiner in a solidly Democratic district.

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