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Obama and Bloomberg Shy Away from Endorsing Rangel

By Jill Colvin | May 7, 2012 7:54pm
Congressman Charlie Rangel was on hand for the parade.
Congressman Charlie Rangel was on hand for the parade.
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Paul Lomax

CITY HALL — Mayor Michael Bloomberg and President Barack Obama are keeping their distance from Rep. Charlie Rangel as he fights one of the toughest re-election battles of his career.

The mayor and a spokesman for the president echoed each others’ sentiments Monday when each declined to weigh in on whether the power brokers would endorse the 21-term Harlem legend, who has been sidelined for months with a serious back injury that has forced him to miss more than 100 votes.

“I have not decided whether I’m getting into that race or not,” Bloomberg told reporters when asked about the contest, which has pitted Rangel against State Sen. Adriano Espaillat, a rising star who would become the nation’s first Dominican-American Congressman.

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney was equally non-committal when he was asked Monday whether the president would endorse Rangel this year.

"I'll have to get back to you on that," he reportedly said during his daily White House press briefing, adding that Obama does want to support a Democrat, according to The Hill.

Thanks to redistricting, Rangel's district is now majority-Latino, and stretches far beyond his power base in a rapidly gentrifying Harlem, up through Washington Heights, Inwood and parts of The Bronx.

Rangel is also being challenged by Clyde Williams, the former National Political Director of the Democratic National Committee, who served as a domestic policy advisor to President Bill Clinton, and whose wife served as White House Deputy Chief of Staff under Obama.

In 2010, Obama distanced himself from Rangel, describing his alleged ethics violations as "very troubling," and saying he hoped the congressman would "end his career with dignity," according to reports at the time.

Bloomberg, however, stood staunchly beside Rangel, lending his support even after the congressman was stripped of his chairmanship of the powerful Ways and Means Committee and found guilty of a series of ethics violations.

“If you remember in the past, I have endorsed Charlie Rangel. He has brought home the bacon," Bloomberg said Monday. "It’s sad that he lost his chairmanship, just at the point when he really could have done more for New York City. But he worked very hard for this city," he said.

Nonetheless, he said, it's too soon for him to decide this time around.

“I haven’t fully thought about it yet. It’s just too early,” Bloomberg said. “I’m going to let this play out.”

The primary is set for June 26, less than two months away.

Espaillat, meanwhile, got a big boost Monday when he was officially endorsed by former Bronx Borough President Fernando Ferrer on the steps of City Hall.

The move was a big win for Espaillat, who has been trying to build his support, especially among power-brokers in the Bronx.

“New York has always been the place where barriers are broken and history is made,” Ferrer said in a statement.

“We can once again make history and bring change to our communities by electing Adriano Espaillat as our next Congressman.”

But there is good news for Rangel — current Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz is expected to  endorse him later this week, a spokeswoman confirmed.

A spokeswoman for Rangel's campaign did not immediately return a request for comment.

Others names in the race for the 13th Congressional District include Upper West Side businesswoman Joyce Johnson and ex-model Craig Schley.