Asked about Carrion, Rangel talks about party-switching Democrats who ‘ended up in jail’

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Yesterday afternoon, before Adolfo Carrion's column in the New York Post this morning, I asked Rep. Charlie Rangel what he thought of the former Obama administration official and Bronx borough president leaving the Democratic Party and exploring a run for mayor.

Rangel said he was shocked by the news and hoped it wasn't true. He also said the situation seemed familiar, a long-time Democrat leaving the party's fold for the convenient embrace of Republicans.

"It would seem to me that a great deal of this is brought upon by Democrats...in the New York State Senate," Rangel said. The "last time there was this type of discussion, everyone ended up in jail."

Rangel was referring to the faction of dissident "Amigos" whose party-switching threw the State Senate into chaos in 2009, and included three senators who have since been convicted: Carl Kruger of Brooklyn (bribery), Hiram Monserrate of Queens (assault) and Pedro Espada of the Bronx (corruption).

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But Rangel said, "quite frankly, Adolfo Carrion is so far above that type" of activity.

Rangel, the dean of the New York congressional delegation, said he wanted to see a statement from Carrion explaining "what the party has done that he does not like. His whole career has been in the Democratic Party. You don't poison the well after you drank from it."

"I'm very emotional about my party," he explained, saying Carrion shouldn't "give up on the party that made him a City Councilman, borough president and high-ranking official in the Obama administration." Carrion served 15 months as the White House director of Urban Affairs, before becoming New York and New Jersey's regional director at the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

I asked Rangel if avoiding a crowded Democratic primary was a valid enough reason. There are at least five (or maybe four) well-funded Democrats looking to run for mayor. On the Republican side, there's a less crowded field. Michael Bloomberg, I reminded the congressman, was a life-long Democrat before he ran for mayor as a Republican.

"Michael Bloomberg did not drink from the Democratic well before he made this decision," Rangel said. "Nothing he achieved was with the Democratic Party. Parties have a reason for being. Parties stand for something. When someone says they're a Democrat, you don't have to check out Google to find out what they stand for."

Then, unprompted, Rangel repeated his earlier argument, talking about how the last group of Democrats who defected from the party "ended up in jail. Clearly, it's where they belonged." He said they "manipulated the party for their own self-aggrandizement, which doesn't surprise me."

Rangel said Carrion was "certainly" better than that.

"I've invested a lot of personal feelings about his future," Rangel said.

I emailed Rangel's comments Carrion's spokesman but did not get a reply.