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15th Congressional District challengers

Cyril Josh Barker | 4/12/2011, 5:23 p.m.

While most voters might not know it, especially in his district, Cong. Charlie Rangel currently has two challengers vying for his congressional seat in the 15th District. One of them is a community activist, and the other a Harlem pastor.

Craig Schley is running as the Independent Party candidate and under his self-made VOTE (Voices of the Everyday People) for Change Party. Republican Party candidate Rev. Michael Faulkner is also running under his self-made Jobs Now Party. Both candidates say they have the skills to run the 15th Congressional District, which Rangel has held for the past 40 years.

Michael Faulkner

Best known as pastor of Harlem's New Horizon Church, which sets up shop every Sunday in the Alhambra Ballroom, the father of three has been in the clergy for 25 years and claims he's a servant to the community.

Some of Faulkner's work includes serving on the advisory board for police and community relations under former Mayor Rudy Guliani and serving as chairman of the HIV/AIDS Advisory Task Force for the Board of Education under Carl McCall when he served as president of the agency.

"I know the community--having served the community--and feel that my running for office now is an extension of that service," he said. "That's what I bring to the table. I bring not just political experience, which I do have, but also a servant leader's experience."

While he's running as the Republican candidate, he's also running on the Jobs Now Party, which he created. The jobs Now Party does not advocate government intervention to help members of the Black community. Instead, it refers back to the old Booker T. Washington philosophy of pick yourself up by your bootstraps and free enterprise.

Faulkner said, "The base for this party is the poor, those that have not been served well by broken government promises. While government may mean well, government can't love you. The institution of government is not in the position to serve the people."

In his efforts to focus on jobs, Faulkner recently held a job fair in Harlem, where he claims more than 1,000 people came out and met with 23 employers, including the armed forces and the NYPD. While there was the presence of private sector employers at his fair was limited, Faulkner emphasized that Black's dependence on the federal and other levels of government for employment opportunities has been a failure.

Faulkner cited the Jobenomics plan by economist Chuck Vollmer that aims to bring 20 million jobs to the nation by 2020. The plan says that the best way to create jobs is through entrepreneurship. Faulkner says his team has been in talks with Wall Street investors to get $100 million to bring jobs to Harlem.

"My focus is on private enterprise, not necessarily government spending," he said. "The real resources are the people. We want to invest in them for them to be the best that they can be."

Even if he's not elected, Faulkner says he will press forward with his plan.