Rep. Charlie Rangel said he was skipping votes down in Washington this week to tend to important work in his district. But attending a meeting at the Stonewall Democrats Club didn’t end up on his list of things to do.
Rangel skipped the club’s meeting last night, despite multiple invitations from the Stonewall Democrats’ leadership. A source at the meeting said that newly elected club president Melissa Sklarz “took a shot” at Rangel for being a no-show, but in an email, Sklarz said her desire to see the veteran congressman at their meeting was sincere.
“We reached out to Congressman Rangel through more than one contact, but we did not connect, but we would continue to reach out to him as long as he was in Congress,” she wrote. “It was said sincerely. Mr. Rangel has never had a primary opponent, or at least until recently, so outreach to incumbents without primary opponents is rare.”
Rangel spokesman Bob Liff warned against drawing too many conclusions from Rangel’s absence.
“Ask the Stonewall Democrats about Rangel’s support of issues of importance to them over the years, and I believe you would be hard-pressed to find much disagreement,” Liff said. “Rangel has been in the office this week — he’s there now — and is working.”
Rangel was featured earlier today on NY1 commentator Gerson Borrero’s Spanish-language radio show, which is broadcast in Puerto Rico. He recently hired Dominican operative Moises Perez to run his campaign in a move to direct more attention to the Spanish-speaking segment of his district, which has grown after the last round of redistricting.
A bad back — either from a virus or a moving accident, it’s unclear — has kept Rangel out of the action for the last several months. He’s missed more votes in Congress than any time before in his four-decade long career. And questions about his health and fitness to run has dogged him all throughout the campaign.
Two of Rangel’s opponents, Sen. Adriano Espaillat and Clyde Williams, were at the Stonewall Democrats meeting. Williams, a former Clinton administration staffer who just beat back an attempt to make it on the ballot, was quizzed about whether he spoke out against President Clinton’s effort to pass the Defense of Marriage Act in 1996. Williams responded that he was just a “junior staff member” at the time, sources said.
A spokeswoman for Williams said he was “warmly received” by the club members, and took the opportunity to talk about his support for marriage equality and his role in getting the first transgendered person appointed to the Democratic National Committee.
[UPDATE] Here’s a video clip of Espaillat addressing the club (h/t to @azipaybarah):
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