President Barack Obama will reportedly refrain from formally endorsing long-serving New York Rep. Charles Rangel in his upcoming primary race, but he did offer some praise for the congressman’s work in office.
“Like 2010 and 2012, the president will not be endorsing in this race,” DNC spokesman Michael Czin said in a statement according to Politico. “However, he believes that Mr. Rangel has been and continues to be an advocate for quality, affordable health care, fair wages and opportunity for all his constituents.”
The 84-year-old Rangel first joined the U.S House of Representatives in 1971 and is one of the longest serving lawmakers currently in Congress. He announced in December that he would run for another term in order to support Obama and his agenda against Republican obstructionists through the end of his presidency in 2016.
“The president needs an ally who commands the attention of Congress when he speaks,” Rangel wrote in an op-ed for the New York Daily News. “Over this past year, I have been one of the most outspoken defenders of the President and Democrats’ agenda. I was there to lead the historic healthcare reform bill into passage and fought hard against Republican obstructionism to repeal it. I am fighting hard against their antics to derail our efforts to implement it and will continue to do so.”
Obama suggested Rangel be willing to retire “with dignity” after he was charged with violating House ethics rules in 2010.
“I think Charlie Rangel served a very long time and served his constituents very well, but these allegations are very troubling, and, you know, he’s somebody who is at the end of his career, 80 years old,” Obama told CBS News in July 2010. “I’m sure that what he wants is to be able to end his career with dignity, and my hope is that happens.”
The House ethics committee ultimately found Rangel guilty on 11 of 13 counts and the full House voted to censure him in November 2010.
The Harlem Democrat will face a handful of challengers in Tuesday’s primary including State Sen. Adriano Espaillat, a fellow Democrat who came quite close to upsetting Rangel in the 2012 primary. If successful on Tuesday and in November, Espaillat would become the first Dominican-American to serve in the U.S. House of Representatives.
While he will not get an Obama backing at this juncture, Rangel has managed to pick up the endorsement of some key New York Democrats, including Gov. Andrew Cuomo who formally endorsed the long-time Harlem congressman over the weekend. New York Sens. Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand, and former President Bill Clinton have backed Rangel too.
Rangel leads Espaillat by 13 points according to a recent poll from NY1/Siena College.