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.

When it comes to the gubernatorial race, Faulkner said he’s been too busy with his campaign to announce his support for one candidate. He’s not supporting Andrew Cuomo, but favors Charles Barron and Carl Paladino.

Craig Schley

The other candidate in the 15th Congressional District is Craig Schley, who is running as the Independent Party candidate and under his own VOTE People for Change Party. Formerly a firefighter in the Atlanta area, he currently serves as block association president and founder of political organization, VOTE People for Change.

Schley also has experience in working for the State Supreme Court and the Commission on Human Rights, as well as for criminal defense attorneys. He’s recently been trying to defend his block from a rezoning proposal by the Abyssinian Development Corporation to bring housing he feels isn’t affordable.

Changing parties, this time Schley claims that after the 2008 election, several district leaders from the Republican, Democratic and Independence Party asked him to run for Congress on their lines.

“I realized that the field of candidates in the Democratic Party was going to be full,” he said. “It was a political and tactical decision not to run on that line. I wanted to make a distinction between the status quo and that this would be a clean start from politics as usual.”

On the issues, Schley said that he wants to create jobs by bringing multimedia arts and the entertainment industry uptown. He said that several people who work in the entertainment industry live in Harlem.

“What Hollywood is to L.A., the arts and entertainment industry could be here,” Schley said. “What they’ve done in the past is they never sought to put it as an industry. They’ve only used arts as a mixed-use attraction for realtors. It brings tourism, provides work, retail, distribution, marketing, storage and all types of things.”

He opposes the 125th Street rezoning proposal and wants more affordable housing and more funding for public schools in the district. On the national level, he wants to revisit the public option for health care, give hazardous-duty pay to first responders and wants federal review of questionable police practices.

In the gubernatorial race, Schley said that he’s putting his support behind Charles Barron.