By Jeff Mays and Linda Abi Assi
HARLEM — Rep. Charles Rangel thanked voters Tuesday morning for standing by him through his ethics scandals, and he remained optimistic that Democrats would hold onto the House and Senate.
Rangel and his wife, Alma, voted at 8 a.m. at PS 175 across from the Lenox Terrace Apartment complex where his use of multiple rent-stabilized apartments will figure heavily into his upcoming ethics trial in Congress.
"I needed them and the community was there," Rangel told supporters after voting this morning.
And many voters at PS 175 had his back.
"Whatever the outcome may be, I’m a person who believes that if you do the crime, you got to do the time," Terry Gaten, 62, a teacher who lives in Lenox Terrace, said of Rangel's upcoming trial. "But I gotta wait to see if he did it."
Gwendolyn Saterfield, 67, a personal assistant who lives in Lenox Terrace said she voted for the entire Democratic ticket, including Rangel.
“The things he did, other politicians did worse,” Saterfield said.
Marshan Purnell, 40, a retail store manager who lives in Harlem, said she was cyncical about politicians in general.
"Politics is politics. I have never been shocked by any political scandal," Purnell said citing the temptations of power, money and fame that politcs can bring. "I'm more shocked when they don't have a scandal."
Rangel's Republican opponent Michel Faulkner said he was expecting victory despite running in the heavily Democratic district.
"It's pre-game and I'm on the sidelines with pre-game butterflies," said Faulkner, a minister who played a year in the National Football league for the New York Jets in the early 1980s. "They've already sung the Star-Spangled banner and I'm ready to get it on."
He said the voters he has spoken to think the ethics charges facing Rangel are a sign that he's out of touch.
"Mr Rangel has cleary seperated himself from his constituency," Faulkner said during a lunch break at Sylvia's soul food restaurant on Lenox Avenue. "His indiscretions put him above the average person."
Rangel, meanwhile, said he looked forward to getting back to Washington to support President Barack Obama's agenda, and that he was still hoping for Democrats to maintain control of the House.
"I have to be very, very optimistic because the polls are working against us in the Congress," Rangel said. "I just can't believe people are so angry that they would stop health care and the initiatives for education."
Gov. David Paterson arrived roughly an hour after Rangel to vote with his wife, Michelle.