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Charles Rangel, who was first elected to Congress in 1970, waged a campaign focused on his legislative seniority. And he stressed the backing of many elected officials, suggesting that New York’s political establishment was not ready to usher him from office. At Sylvia’s, a sign described the congressman as “The Lion of Lenox Avenue.” Assemblyman Keith L. T. Wright, a co-chairman of the state Democratic Party, predicted that Mr. Rangel would serve indefinitely in Congress, saying, “Charlie Rangel might be the Strom Thurmond of Harlem.” “No one has been through the fire more so than our congressperson,” Mr. Wright said, “and we in the district have sent him back because we have faith in him, and that he has our interests in mind, and quite frankly he’s one of us.” Mr. Rangel took the stage looking emotional, and sounded a note of damaged pride and fierce determination. He said of his critics, “If they didn’t think after 42 years that I was the best qualified, I promise them that in the next two years they’ll have no question about the fact that we elected the best.”
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