NEW YORK (WPIX)—For the first time in his 40 year political career, Representative Charles Rangel appears to be more vulnerable than ever as he faces a re-election campaign. Tainted by scandal and ethics probes that have prompted him to temporarily step aside as Chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, Rangel is being challenged for his seat in the city's 15th Congressional District
Two of three declared candidates are guests on this Sundays PIX News Closeup, Vincent Morgan, a Democrat, and the Rev. Michel Faulkner, the lone Republican contender. Adam Clayton Powell IV,who agreed to be on the program, failed to show up for the broadcast.
Rev, Faulkner, a former lineman for the New York Jets and the founder of New Horizon Church, agreed. He challenged my reference to Congressional seat as "the Rangel seat." He said "It's actually the people's seat and I am running to restore that seat to the people, to restore true representation to the people of the 15th district.."
Both candidates concurred that the voters are tired of political partisanship. Neither has ever held public office, nor do they have political experience. But that they see as an asset. "I am not a politician," Faulkner declared. "The House of Representatives was set up for common citizens to represent the people and I am qualified for that," he continued.
Morgan insisted "being a politician is not a qualification to go to Washington, but integrity is very important."
Though he's a Republican running in one of the strongest Democratic neighborhoods in the city, Rev. Faulkner said he felt the timing was right for a non Democrat to win. "With anti-incumbeny sweeping the nation, it's time for change," he declared/ He expressed the belief that he could be the next Scott Brown, a reference to the populist Republican in Massachusetts who staged an upset by winning Ted Kennedy's senate seat. "It happened once, it could happen again," he chimed, and again insisted "I am running to restore democracy."
Morgan jumped in, "I hope to pull a Vince Morgan," and noted that he is a formidable challenger to Rangel. "This is going to be a true test, he's never had a substantial challenger."
Morgan and Faulker agreed that a priority in their district is the creation of new jobs, and both pledged to help bring in entrepreneurs to encourage the development of more businesses in Harlem.
The demographics of Harlem have changed in the 40 years since Rangel first took office. Now there are more whites and almost half the population there is Hispanic. The candidates felt that that shift will help them with their message of change.
I polled their views on a few controversial issues. On gun control, Rev Faulkner said he supports some form of control, particularly since he came from Virginia Tech, the scene of a shooting massacre. Vince Morgan said he is "100% for gun control."
Morgan favors same sex marriages and marriage equality at every level Rev. Faulkner is adamantly opposed to same sex unions.
The Republican candidate declared that "abortion is wrong. I believe it is murder." But Morgan said he's "100% for a woman's right to choose."
In conclusion, I asked why they each felt they should be the next Representative from the 15th. From Faulkner, "I represent the voice of the people." And Morgan said, "I have most in common with the people."
Morgan faces a primary with Adam Clayton Powell IV September 14th. For now, Rev Faulkner remains the only Republican candidate.
You can see my entire interview on PIX NEWS CLOSEUP this Sunday at 6 am and afterward, right here at wpix.com/newscloseup.