MANHATTAN — The challenger who has raised the most cash to unseat Rep. Charles Rangel is accusing the long-time Congressman of trying to push him out of the race.
Clyde Williams, the former National Political Director of the Democratic National Committee and former domestic policy advisor to President Bill Clinton, said he learned last night that several of Rangel's "associates" had filed official objections to signatures his campaign had submitted to get on the ballot.
Ballot objections are common, which is part of the reason why most office-seekers obtain far more than the necessary number of names.
"Last night, I learned that associates of Charlie Rangel intend to try to block my access to the ballot," Williams charged in a statement.
"Some might say a petition challenge is the sincerest form of flattery. But in fact what my opponents are challenging is the right of the people to be heard — trying to silence the voices of change," he said, vowing to "fight this challenge because I — like so many District residents — share a the desire to change our fortunes and seize our future for the better."
Rangel is facing a crowded field of challengers, including Williams, who has positioned himself as a younger, fresher insider, and Dominican-American state Sen. Adriano Espaillat, who is hoping to take advantage of changing demographics in a re-drawn district that is now majority Hispanic.
While Williams may not be a household name, federal election records show that he has raised $118,000 so far this year — nearly as much as Rangel and Espaillat combined.
Board of Elections records confirm that formal objections were filed against Williams on April 19 by two individuals, one whose name matches a former Rangel staffer and campaign volunteer.
Objections were also filed by the pair against two of Rangel's other challengers: Upper West Side businesswoman and former Democratic District Leader Joyce Johnson and former model and community activist Craig Schley, the records show.
The objections are among dozens that have been filed in contests across the state.
A spokesman for Rangel's campaign said that filing an objection at this stage simply gives the campaign a chance to access petitions to make sure enough signatures have been collected and check for fraud.
Objectors have until next Thursday at midnight to file specific objections to the petitions, which could include things like evidence of names not matching signatures or the inclusion of voters who don't live in a the district, which stretches from Upper Manhattan into the Bronx.
Williams' campaign says it submitted more than 6,000 petitions — more than six times 938 signature minimum, while Johnson's campaign claims just under 4,000. The Schley campaign could not be immediately reached.
No objections have been filed against Espaillat.