HARLEM—Amid speculation that Rep. Charles Rangel would hand over his seat to a handpicked successor if he's elected to Congress for a 22nd term, the 81-year-old Harlem power brokers said he would serve the entire term.
People in political circles have been murmuring that Rangel, who faces a possible challenge from State Sen. Adriano Espaillat, might to try to hand his seat over to someone such as state Assemblyman Keith Wright, if elected, rather than serve the full two-year term.
Rangel, however, wanted to quash those rumors.
"I am not in this race so I could politically manipulate the system," Rangel said in a statement. "The constituents I have long served know, and those who I now seek to represent will learn, that I am a straight-talker. Any rumors that say I'm not going to serve out a full term are false."
He added: "I am absolutely running for re-election. I intend to serve my entire term. There is no wiggle room."
The speculation comes as Rangel faces redrawn district lines and a crowded primary field. He also faced a recent back injury that caused him to be hospitalized.
The rumors were unsurprising to Democratic consultant Hank Sheinkopf.
After 40 years in office, Rangel wants control his destiny and that of the seat, he suggested. Rangel had said before the new lines were drawn that his top priority was making sure the seat remained in Harlem.
"Historically this has been a Harlem-based and controlled political office. If he leaves and picks no successor the probability declines that it will remain so," said Sheinkopf.
The new 13th Congressional District has shifted north to include less of the Upper West Side and more of the Bronx. It is now 55 percent Hispanic, 12 percent white and 27 percent black. The old 15th district was 46 percent Latino, 26 percent black and 21 percent white.
Latinos had been pushing for a Dominican Congressional district that encompassed parts of Washington Heights, Inwood, the Bronx and Queens but were denied by a federal judge.
Also running in the race are Joyce Johnson, Vince Morgan, Craig Schley and Clyde Williams, a former advisor to President Bill Clinton.
Already, Democratic clubs in the district have started choosing sides. Rangel received endorsements from the Arturo Schomburg Democratic Club in East Harlem founded by Assemblyman Robert Rodriguez, said club president Seth Steed.
"We are coming out ahead of the curve supporting our congressman," said Steed.
Rangel has also snared endorsements from two other Upper West Side democratic clubs, the Columbia Spectator reported. The Three Parks Independent Democrats and the Broadway Democrats both voted to endorse Rangel.
The endorsements come despite Rangel recently agreeing to pay a $23,000 fine to settle campaign finance violations related to a rent-subsidized apartment in Harlem. Rangel won by a landslide his 21st term in 2010 despite the ethics charges for which he was censured on the House floor.