Political Arena

Reverend challenges Rangel


A prominent Harlem reverend has begun fundraising to challenge incumbent Charles Rangel for the 13th Congressional District seat in the Democratic primary contest set for later this year.

Rev. Michael Walrond, who leads the First Corinthian Baptist Church, began soliciting contributions on his campaign website on Dec. 27.

“Countless Americans have grown weary of the political gridlock that has become all too common in our nation’s capital,” Rev. Walrond’s website states. “It appears that democracy is under assault, and worse, many who are among the ranks of the marginalized and vulnerable have stopped believing in our political process and system.”

Rev. Waldron was not available for interviews as of press time. Other news outlets described the candidate as a close ally of nationally prominent activist Rev. Al Sharpton.

Earlier this month, Mr. Rangel announced he would seek a 23rd term in Congress. He has represented parts of the northwest Bronx since his district was expanded outside his historic home base of Harlem starting this year.

Mr. Rangel is campaigning on a record of supporting President Barack Obama and the Democratic Party’s major priorities, but a 2010 House of Representatives censure for ethics violations increases his vulnerability to challengers. 

State Sen. Adriano Espaillat, who nearly defeated Mr. Rangel in the Democratic primary in 2012, is likely to run again.

It could be a crowded contest. Another prominent Harlem reverend, the Abyssinian Baptist Church’s Calvin Butts, is also considered a possible candidate for the nomination.


Klein, Engel take on
Israel boycott


State Senate Co-Majority Leader Jeffrey Klein and Assemblyman Dov Hikind of Brooklyn plan to propose legislation attacking a university organization that recently began a boycott of Israel.

The law would give New York colleges and universities 30 days to withdraw from the American Studies Association (ASA), which started the boycott of Israeli academic institutions on Dec. 4. New York academic organizations that do not meet the deadline would lose their state funding.

“This anti-Israel academic boycott amounts to discrimination on the basis of national origin as Israeli academics will be subjected to verification procedures not applicable to academics from any other nation” Mr. Klein and Mr. Hikind wrote in a co-authored letters to the chancellors of the City University of New York (CUNY) and the State University of New York (SUNY).

Other news outlets quoted CUNY, SUNY and New York University representatives as having mixed reactions to the proposed legislation.

Congressman Eliot Engel wrote to ASA’s President Curtis Marez sharply criticizing the boycott, which ASA had said was intended to support Palestinians.

“I believe such action by the ASA is another example of the unfair double standard Israel is regularly and unfairly subjected to by organizations such as yours,” Mr. Engel stated.


Commuter tax
deductions decrease


The limit on federal tax deductions for commuting costs has dropped from $240 to $130 a year. The shift was among 55 tax deductions and credits Congress did not renew before going on its winter recess.

Congressmen Eliot Engel and Charles Rangel blasted the change.

“This is a step in the wrong direction when we’re trying to encourage more use of mass transit,” Mr. Engel said in a statement. “We should be working to make public transportation more affordable — especially in our nation’s most congested areas.”

Mr. Rangel said in a statement he would work to restore the commuter tax deductions this year.


“I am extremely disappointed that Congress failed to extend this tax provision prior to adjourning for the holidays,” Mr. Rangel said. “I have fully supported and advocated for making this beneficial tax incentive permanent as it encourages greater use of mass transit.”