Thursday, November 17, 2011

Clyde Williams to take on Charlie Rangel?

I read with interest an article in the Huffington Post about a possible challenge to Charlie Rangel in next year's congressional race for NY-15.

Now, let's be clear - Charlie Rangel, love him or not, has vanquished many challengers over the years.  He's held the seat for over 40 years!  In December 2010, he was even made to step down as chairman of the powerful Ways & Means committee in the House in the wake of his being censured for ethical lapses (only the 23rd member in the history of the House to be censured, the most severe punishment short of expulsion.  

Of course, all of the ethical issues were well known in advance of his re-election a month earlier, when he obliterated the second place vote-getter, state Assemblyman Adam Clayton Powell IV, in the Democratic primary.  He won almost 80% of the vote in the 2010 general election.

This is a guy who may just be in office for life.

Why would 2012 be any different?  Well, Clyde Williams, who has made some moves in the direction of taking on Rangel, is a different kind of candidate than has been seen in Harlem in a long, long time.

Clyde Williams is NOT part of the old boys' network in Harlem. He has lived in Harlem since 2001 (in the Mount Morris area) and is originally from DC.  But make no mistake about it - he's connected.

Who's he connected with?   Since January 2009, he's been the Political Director for the Democratic National Committee.  He was domestic policy advisor with the Clinton Foundation (yep, the one based in Harlem) from 2001 to 2005.  Before that, he held several positions in the Clinton administration.  But that's just Clyde - he's one half of a political power couple:  his wife, Mona Sutphen, is former Deputy Chief of Staff for President Obama from 2009 to 2011.  

Think Clyde could raise some cash for his political aspirations?  I'd say it's a sure bet, given that Rangel is not quite what he used to be.

But would Harlem voters be interested in voting for Clyde Williams?  Dunno for sure, but besides his resume and connections - which he'd surely work for the benefit of the 15th District - my impression is that he's substantive, well spoken, and savvy. Other Rangel challengers are not excited about running against him.  But that he doesn't come from the Harlem old boys' network should work FOR him more than it works against him.  And the demographics of the 15th District have changed a bit - taken on average, the voters are more racially diverse, more affluent and more moderate than say, 10 years ago.  

I recall Clyde Williams standing up at an MMPCIA sponsored town hall meeting with some of Harlem's elected leaders and various law enforcement chiefs back in June 2007, as he eloquently made a case for more security in Marcus Garvey Park, which at the time was completely trashed each and every weekend.  

My only concern with Clyde is whether or not he would be more moderate than Rangel (though I'm not sure how it would be possible to go the other way), given his partisan role at the DNC.  He strikes me as a practical problem solver, though, and I would have to imagine that he'd better represent the 15th District at this point than Rangel, who has done more lately to prop up himself than Harlem.

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