Rep. Rangel's Debate Stunt Riles Opponents

Image: Rep. Rangel's Debate Stunt Riles Opponents

Thursday, 15 May 2014 11:26 AM

By Lisa Degnen

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Controversial Rep. Charles B. Rangel's primary debate against his two Democratic rivals took a bizarre turn when he pulled out a cell phone and pretended to talk to a caller during his turn to take the floor.

The New York Times reported that Rangel pulled out his BlackBerry during the Wednesday night debate in Harlem and acted as if he was chatting to someone on the other end of the line about his two rivals.

"No, he’s been there 18 years, but he didn’t say he passed any bills at all," he said of his main opponent, State Sen. Adriano D. Espaillat.

Of the other candidate, the Rev. Michael A. Walrond, Rangel said: "Listen, how can he register to vote in New York when he lives in [New] Jersey?"

Walrond is also a close friend of the Rev. Al Sharpton, who has yet to endorse him.

Finally after his three minutes were up, the moderator at St. Luke A.M.E. Church had to inform him it was time to hang up on his fake call.

The Times reported that Rangel shouted so much during the debate that he made himself hoarse.

The 13th Congressional District in New York, which has been a shoe-in for Rangel for 22 terms, is now up for grabs since it now also encompasses the Latino stronghold of the Bronx, which favors Dominican-American Espaillat. The primary election is June 24.

Espaillat hit back at Rangel and called him part of the "Washington elite," according to the Times. Walrond said that he was a minister of First Corinthian Baptist Church in Harlem where he fed the hungry. "You do not feed people with bills, you feed them with food," he said, mocking Rangel.

Separately, the New York Post reported Wednesday that Rangel’s campaign manager was involved in creating a nonprofit group that has come under investigation.

Rasheida Smith, is listed on the incorporation papers of the nonprofit, which is called New York 4 Life. State officials say City Councilman Reuben Wills stole more than $30,000 from New York 4 Life to buy items such as a $750 Louis Vuitton handbag. Smith’s home address was listed as the nonprofit’s headquarters.

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