If an informal survey conducted last week is any indication of the congressional race between incumbent Charles Rangel and his Republican challenger Rev. Michel J. Faulkner, then he would do better to step aside now and save himself another embarrassing setback.
“Michel who?” one respondent said. “The only Faulkner I know is William, the dead writer.”
And for all intents and purposes the political Faulkner, 53, from Harlem stands about as much chance of defeating Rangel as he has of winning the New York City Marathon, for which he’s been training.
“Yeah, I heard of him,” said another person. “He’s nice guy, but I think he knows he doesn’t stand a chance. Maybe this is just a way of making a name for himself.”
Ten people later, only one provided any real recognition of Faulkner, though he seems undaunted and confident that he can pull off “a revolution,” as he shouted recently on the streets of Harlem.
“First of all, your sample is very small, though getting one in 10 is not that bad, particularly if that one is a vote for me,” said Faulkner when told of the survey.
Fresh from a rally at City Hall where he joined in a protest against any tampering with traditional marriage, Faulkner talked about his opponent, insisting that Rangel needs to step aside. “Now don’t get me wrong, I think he’s a likable guy, but at 80, it’s time for him to go,” he charged.
And how does he see his chances of supplanting the 20-term representative from the 15th Congressional District? “I say bet on Michel Faulkner,” he advised. “I know he [Rangel] has all the money, but it’s not about money, it’s about democracy, and you know how that works on people, especially given the current anti-incumbency.”
Putting his hopes on anti-incumbency should be a mute assertion when you consider the way Rangel vanquished his adversaries in the primaries. And when Rangel was asked his opinion of Faulkner, his knowledge of his opponent was not better than the folks in the survey.
“I don’t know anyone who knows Rev. Faulkner personally, but the ideas that he has expressed publicly and the ideas expressed by the local and national Republican Party are not the direction that this country or community should accept,” Rangel began. “He and his party oppose every positive thing that President Barack Obama has done to stabilize our economy and sow the seeds for future success.”
Rather than waste time and energy on Faulkner, Rangel seemed more concerned about his Democratic colleagues in close races around the country and the embattled Obama administration. “Now is the time, more than ever, to give our President the moral and political support he needs to move our country forward in the areas of housing, immigration, climate control and, perhaps most of all, job creation.
“Yet Republicans time and time again have refused to work with him and other Democrats to pass any legislation,” Rangel continued. “‘Just Say No’ may have been a great campaign for First Lady Nancy Reagan, but it doesn’t work in Congress. Now is the time to come together and work towards solutions that will help every American and not just a select few.”
Faulkner stressed the fact that Rangel has turned down requests from him and others for a one-on-one debate. “Time and time again there have been groups asking him to a debate, but each time he has refused,” Faulkner said.
“I look forward to meeting with Rev. Faulkner and discussing these issues with him,” Rangel said. “I regret that I have not had a chance to discuss these issues with him previously at the many community meetings and forums that I have attended over the years. The challenges that this nation faces overcoming the failed policies of the Bush era are many, but I will not stop reaching out and working hard to improve the quality of life of the wonderful and diverse people of the 15th Congressional District.”
On the issue of endorsements, Faulkner recently received one from Democratic state senator Ruben Diaz, Sr. of the Bronx, who has been urging Latino voters to forget about party and throw their support behind Faulkner.
Rangel, on the other hand, shored up his Latino standing by agreeing with President Obama’s signing of an Executive Order to renew the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics. “Empowering younger generations of Latino students, who represent one of every five students in our nation’s public schools, will add to the significant contributions Hispanics have already made in building a prosperous America,” Rangel concluded.