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Battle for the 15th Congressional District

July 31, 2010

Adam Clayton Powell IV with photo of his father Congressman, Adam Clayton Powell, Jr.

Five are vying (Adam Clayton Powell IV,  Vince Morgan,  Johnathan Tasini) all Democrats and one Republican Rev. Michael Faulkner for the Congressional seat of embattled incumbent Rep. Charles Rangel.  And Powell IV ran and lost to Rangel in the 1994 Congressional race.

His father the late Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. left a legacy   some want to preserve in a community that sent him to Congress as the first black from any  Northern state since Reconstruction (1865-1877) in a post Reconstruction Era .

In the 1960s,  Powell, Jr.  denied a seat in the 90th Congress  later seated in the 91st  continued his legal battle in the case  Powell v. McCormack, 395 U.S. 486 (1969) . He represented  the constituents of Harlem for 26 years from 1945 to 1971.

The House ethics committee on Thursday released a report lodging 13 charges against Rep. Rangel with a public trial set for sometime in September  the Democratic Party, including President Barack Obama saying it’s “troubling,”  the  fear is  Republicans use it in their battle to regain control of the Congress.

Hispanics composed 48% , African-Americans 35%, whites 28% and Asians 3% of the 15th Congressional District, that includes the neighborhoods of Harlem, Inwood, Marble Hill, Spanish Harlem, Washington Heights, Morningside Heights and portions of the Upper West Side.

Yet percentages could be misleading in this all out war for one of the smallest Congressional districts in the nation. What is key to winning the district may come down to the candidate with the most funds and a well-organized political machine to back it up.

Interestingly both Rangel and Powell IV each has a Puerto Rican background,  Rangel a father from Ponce who abandoned the family at an early age while Powell born and raised in San Juan, Puerto Rico is a scion of two families with deep roots in politics.  His father is civil rights leader and former Congressman Adam Clayton Powell Jr., and his grandfather Gonzalo Diago, Mayor of San Juan in the 1940s.

However, some think Powell’s brush with the law in two incidents involving women in 2004  though one case closed and the other recanted and his 2008 DWI case recently ending with a DWI (Impaired) may be a problem for him.

Yet, Assemblyman Adam Clayton Powell IV has the most experience in elected office over his competitors an asset helpful to him with both African-Americans and Latinos voters looking to send their most experienced politicians to Congress during a crucial election year  of reapportionment and redistricting after the U.S. Census.

Yet, all this makes for an interesting appeal to the Latino constituents who compose the largest ethnic group in the district.  In hindsight, Adam Clayton Powell Diago his former name before he changed it  to Adam Clayton Powell IV in 1980 after leaving Puerto Rico to attend Howard University would have been more helpful to him in this race to garner a solid Latino vote, but still Powell might be able to draw upon both groups to give him a political edge.

In the end the battle for the 15th congressional district may come down to “preserving a legacy” that African-Americans have enjoyed through Rangel extending back to the 1970s when he beat Adam Clayton Powell, Sr., allowing him to run for the 21st time to choose his successor.  But this strategy may backfire because a trial in September is not sitting well with the head of the Democratic Party President Barack Obama who he would prefer he step down.

For the largest group in the district the Latinos followed by African-Americans  the most important question is what candidate will best represent their issues in a time period  of  redistricting and reapportionment ? And have African-Americans who have held on to the seat for nearly half century served and responded to  all of its diverse constituents?  Is it time for Adam Clayton Powell IV to reclaim the seat his father lost to Rep. Rangel?

One reader of the blog commented, “while Adam Clayton Powell is the most experienced from all the candidates planning to replace the Honorable Charles Rangel… he has made mistakes that the media will bring back into the forefront once the elections get into full force. I think he is the best candidate for Latinos and for the district as a whole…”

And Adam Clayton Power IV appeared in NYDaily News column Daily Politics as raking up some solid  support among Latino elected officials back in April this year, includingAssemblyman Félix Ortiz, (D-Brooklyn).

Nevertheless, with  three African-American candidates splitting the vote,  the candidacy of labor leader, Johnathan Tasini, a Jewish-American may pick up some steam in a race where ethnicity may prove to be a decisive  factor in a Congressional district African-Americans have held since Adam Clayton Power, Jr.  in 1945.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. August 1, 2010 12:56 am

    While Adam Clayton Powell is the most experienced from all the candidates planning to replace the on-Honorable Charles Rangel, he will have a hard time and a high mountain to climb. He has made mistakes that the media will bring back into the forefront once the elections get into full force. I know Adam personally and I think he is the best candidate for Latinos and for the district as a whole, however, that may come back to push him off the mountain…

    • saison1 permalink*
      August 1, 2010 2:11 am

      Why do you think he is the best for the district as a whole or for Latinos?

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