One Harlemite's viewpoint: Why Rangel gets my vote

KEISHA SUTTON-JAMES | 6/27/2012, 4:03 p.m.

Additionally--and this speaks to the emotion behind voting and politics--Rangel makes me proud when he's debating. When I see him speaking out or arguing his point with conservative opponents, he articulates his opinions--and mine--with the passion and vigor that I would, were I on TV or debating in the Capitol instead of him.

OK, I got ahead of myself there--I wish I knew how to do it the way he does! He makes it a spectator sport. I can actually cheer him on, as I would the Knicks in a rare win! The point is that it feels good when my guy gets one in and wins the debate or passes legislation that will benefit my community.

For those of you who have not thought about the issues or considered his accomplishments, I am not going to use this forum to run through his legislative record. Instead, I invite you to check out his website for yourself and compare and contrast with that of each of his opponents. I think you will be interested by what you find--or don't.

What I find most interesting is the new Harlemites who are working hard to unseat Rangel. As a native Harlemite, I relish the fact that the whole world now knows what I have known my entire life: Harlem offers residents a real neighborhood--where neighborhood means community--with an incredible stock of lovely homes in close proximity to Midtown Manhattan. However, when the rest of America was too afraid to come to Harlem, Rangel was out there representing us with dignity and fighting to bring the resources that the community needs.

When my mother and I had no choice but to leave our neighborhood to do our grocery shopping, banking and movie-watching because we couldn't find quality fresh produce in our neighborhood and there were only three national bank branches between 110th and 135th streets, these now new Harlemites were sitting in their sofas in their cramped apartm ents on the Upper West Side, taking in all of the comfort and amenities it had to offer.

That was a time when Harlem was considered inhospitable to many. Not seven years ago, I had a client ask me if I went home in an armored car, because it was so unsafe in Harlem. Those who have now made Harlem their beloved home weren't coming above 96th Street for anything back then. We used to stand in front of them on the buses and trains so we could be assured a seat for the remainder of the ride home--what is now home to them they once considered a gun-riddled, cracked-out hinterland.

For better or worse, it was Rangel's empowerment zones legislation, as well as other factors, that attracted the capital that now makes Harlem a place these newcomers can and do call home. Now not only do we have banks and quality grocery stores, but Duane Reade, New York Sports Club and other retail giants have made their way uptown, making life more comfortable for many residents and attracting my new neighbors.

But somehow, these are the very same people who are most often the ones who think it is time for Rangel to retire. Instead of saying thank you, they say goodbye. I know I will get flack from friends of my own who fall in that category--a lot of them!--but I cannot deny the striking irony of this. It has to be said.

Finally, to anyone in the electorate who is reading this, I ask you to consider who is behind this movement. Who is funding it? What are their objectives? What do they stand to gain? Why do they really want Rangel to step down? To tell you the truth, I don't know all of these answers. But I am sure it is not just because "it is time."