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Rangel, under ethics cloud, faces primary voters

Voters head to polls in one last big round of primaries before midterms.

In his final days on the stump, Rangel, 80, soldiered on undaunted. On Monday, he continued to proclaim that he did nothing wrong, slammed the ethics committee for its delay and ridiculed those - including President Obama - who have suggested that he consider retiring or reaching a plea agreement to avoid a trial.

Tuesday night, he mentioned Obama only in his final remarks, but he adopted the call-and-answer catchphrase of the president's 2008 campaign. "Fired up?" Rangel shouted, and a crowd of about 100 supporters inside the Uptown Grand replied: "Ready to go."

New York Gov. David A. Paterson (D), a close ally who gave up his election bid amid his own ethics investigation, appeared onstage with Rangel and other Harlem luminaries. He lamented the allegations against Rangel and attacked the media.

"We all have been victims to it," Rangel said, lending his support to Paterson and repeating his refrain that he should not be judged until his trial is completed. "Make the judgment after the facts are revealed."

The Rangel-Powell rivalry was omnipresent throughout the race - and even at Rangel's party. It was hosted on Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Boulevard, across the street from the Adam Clayton Powell Jr. State Building, where Rangel has a congressional office.

The 15th District was once the cultural capital of black America, home to the Harlem Renaissance in the 1920s, to take one example. Now it's a multicultural hub with a plurality of Hispanic voters (46 percent). Just over a third of its residents are African American.

Smaller portions of the district stretch down into the white, affluent neighborhoods of the Upper East Side and Upper West Side, and Rangel's campaign had bet that the "robocalls" from Bloomberg and Clinton would help sway those highly educated voters.

East Harlem is home to a large Puerto Rican community, as well as Dominicans. Powell, 48, who was born in Puerto Rico and is part Latino, tried to say that Rangel's time had passed, that his ethics case left him powerless and that it was time for the next generation of black leaders to take over.

"Rangel is no longer that powerful," Powell told the New York Daily News on Monday. "He lost his power as chair of Ways and Means. He's 80 years old and everyone, from Barack Obama on down, has asked him to step down with some kind of dignity."

Powell, however, had collected just $129,000 as of Aug. 25 for his entire campaign and had a meager $39,000 left in his account for the final three weeks before Tuesday's primary. By contrast, over the 19-month election cycle so far, Rangel has raised more than $2.7 million and spent $3.6 million - a large chunk of that, more than $2 million, going to his lawyers. He had $422,000 for the final days of the campaign.

In another closely watched congressional race, this one in Manhattan's Upper East Side, Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney easily beat back a challenge from Reshma Saujani by collecting more than 80 percent of the vote in the Democratic primary.

Staff writer Carol D. Leonnig in Washington contributed to this report.

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