A Rangel challenger says his congressional aide intimidated supporters with a 'PLEASE CONFIRM!' email
10:25 am Feb. 28, 20124
A candidate the New York Times endorsed against Rep. Charlie Rangel in 2010, and who is making a second run for the seat this year, said a top aide to the 81-year-old Harlem politician is trying to intimidate her supporters.
Joyce Johnson, a business executive and former district leader, said that shortly after she posted an invitation to a March 8 fund-raiser on her personal Facebook page, two of her supporters listed on the invitation got an email from Geoff Eaton, who is Rangel's deputy chief of staff and also president of the mid-Manhattan branch of the NAACP.
The email, which was forwarded to Johnson by the supporters and then passed on to me, went like this:
ARE YOU GUYS SUPPORTING THIS PERSON OVER MY BOSS? PLEASE CONFIRM!
Johnson said a third supporter received a phone call from Eaton.
Johnson said after her supporters confirmed their positions, Eaton replied pleasantly, and said he was just checking to confirm that the invitation was accurate.
But for Johnson, the whole correspondence was inappropriate, and that the gesture, rather than any particular wording Eaton used, was meant to chase away her supporters.
"When you get a call to say please confirm," Johnson explained, "there's an implication in it that there are some consequences. Otherwise, why do it?"
A spokesman for Rangel declined to comment.
Rangel easily won re-election in 2010, after being extensive coverage of a House ethics proceeding that ended in him being sanctioned on the House floor.
The biggest potential change this year has to do with the district itself, which is the focus of heavy infighting between the Manhattan and Bronx Democratic county leaders who are arguing over what the shape of it will be after redistricting, and which county should control the nominating process should Rangel vacate the seat early.
Rangel has also drawn a spirited challenger in Clyde Williams, a former top aide to Presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, who has raised $160,000 in ten weeks and has $1250,000 on hand for a prospective race. Williams conducted a poll last year to measure his prospects.
Also running against Rangel this year is Vince Morgan, a former aide and local banker who has stressed his roots in the community and the need for a new generation of leadership to take over for Rangel.
Johnson thinks she can separate herself from a multi-candidate field. She says the Times endorsement she got last time around "still is a big boost to me," and points to the fact that she's the only woman in the field as another important distinction.
Normally genial, Johnson said she was "damn mad" that Rangel's office had contacted her supporters, and said she knew of other potential supporters who were reluctant to go public for fear of reprisals from Rangel.
"We took down the list of the hosts because I didn't want anybody else to go through that," she said of her March 8 fund-raising invitation.
"I'm going to call upon courageous people to lend their name" because "we've got to break this cycle," she said.