Tuesday, September 02, 2014

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In this special series, NY1's Michael Scotto looks at the re-election campaign of Rep. Charles Rangel, who says he's running for one final term in his four-decade career representing Upper Manhattan.

Rangel's Last Run: Walrond's Bid to Unseat Rangel Fueled by Small but Energetic Group

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State Senator Adriano Espaillat has gotten all the attention as Rep. Charles Rangel's chief rival, but there is another man running for the seat, and it's possible he could play a big role in determining who wins. Michael Scotto filed the following report as part of his "Rangel's Last Run" series.

Take a walk along Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Boulevard one Sunday morning and you'll likely see a long line of people waiting to hear Pastor Michael Walrond preach at his First Corinthian Baptist Church.

"Do you love me enough to get to know me in a deeper way?" Walrond said at one such service.

Walrond is running against Rep. Charles Rangel and state Senator Adriano Espaillat. His longshot campaign is fueled by a small but energetic group that's trying to rally Harlem residents who think Rangel is past his prime.

"Out with the old, in with the new," said one Walrond supporter.

Walrond's campaigning style is much like his preaching style: informal and aimed at a new generation of people. He often canvasses buildings dressed in a shirt displaying his own campaign logo.

"I think a lot of people are often surprised that I'm the candidate and I'm actually knocking on these doors and going around these buildings," he said.

Walrond has had past success at mobilizing people. An associate of the Rev. Al Sharpton, he came to the First Corinthian Baptist Church from North Carolina a decade ago. He took a church of just a few hundred members and grew it to 9,000. He's now trying to replicate that success in politics.

"I want people to understand and see that their voice and vote matter, because without people, the democracy is being undermined," he said.

Although he's been active in the district, he hasn't always been a resident. It wasn't until this year that Walrond moved from his New Jersey home to a high rise in Harlem.

Rangel has made that an issue in the campaign, but it's unclear if Rangel has to worry about Walrond. It appears that the pastor's supporters were never Rangel voters.

"I think Walrond's support is a very distinct, significant support, much of it coming from his church, a lot of it coming from that younger demographic of Harlem voter that isn't tied to traditional institutions of here," said political consultant Basil Smikle.

In fact, as Walrond's team tries to rally support, they're reminded that Rangel still has plenty of fans.

"I'm going to stick with Charlie if he dies in office," said one Rangel supporter.

It's a sign that taking on the congressman is always a challenge.

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