Washington – On Tuesday, Rep. Charles Rangel faces a Latino primary opponent in a majority-Latino electorate for the first time in his four-decade career as a Congressman, but he isn’t worried.
“I don’t know whether the number of any particular Latino group has made or will make any particular difference in the issues that I am concerned with,” Rep. Rangel, a New York Democrat, told Juan Williams in an exclusive interview for Fox News Latino.
When Rangel first won elected office in 1971 his Harlem district was New York City's traditional African American power base. The redistricting process, which was finalized earlier this year, latched heavily Latino neighborhoods and a chunk of the Bronx onto Rangel’s Upper Manhattan district, making the historically African-American stronghold about a quarter black and 55 percent Latino.
The 82-year-old’s stiffest competition in the June 26 Democratic primary now comes from Dominican-born New York State Sen. Adriano Espaillat.
Rangel may be right to confident, however, having scored endorsements from top Hispanic politicians like Sen. José Serrano, a Democrat from the South Bronx.
But though the Democratic primary now pits a against a Latino challenger against an African-American incumbent in a newly Hispanic-majority district, Rangel dismissed the idea that demographic changes across the country might pit minority groups against each other.
“All I can say is that we’ve never in 40 years had that in my Congressional district,” Rangel said.
For Rangel the problems facing his constituents are the same, regardless of race or ethnicity.
“If you got problems like unemployment, Social Security, Medicaid, Medicare and there’s a guy that’s always been there for you and for your family, then you say ‘He’s a nice guy. I don’t know where he came from or how long he’s been here, but Charlie Rangel’s the man,’” he said. “That's what I’m relying on.”
Produced by Victor Garcia. Follow him at @MrVicGarcia.
Written by Roque Planas. Follow him at @RoqPlanas.
[Editors note -- This article was first published on June 12, 2012]