In Harlem, Adam for Al Means Powell for Congress

Last week, potential contributors were invited to a cocktail reception for New York State Assemblyman Adam Clayton Powell, IV. The event, to be held January 29th at the Sugar Shack Restaurant in New York City, is sponsored by the “Powell for Congress Committee” and, in a attached message to prospective donars, Democrat Powell notes that “At some point in the next few years, I hope to represent you in the United States Congress.”

By itself, invitations and remarks such as that are commonplace. But this is unique in that Powell’s congressman and fellow Harlem Democrat, twelve-term Rep. Charles Rangel, is seeking re-election and, at age 73, shows no sign of relinquishing his House seat anytime soon.

So Powell–whose namesake-father held the Harlem-area House seat from 1944 until he was upset by Rangel in 1970–is obviously laying the groundwork for a candidacy when and if the ranking Democratic House Member on the Ways and Means Committee calls it quits. This unusual early-bird fund-raising for a House race in “Year Unknown” comes a decade after Powell (then a New York city councilman) took on Rangel himself in the Democratic primary (Rangel was renominated with 61% of the vote).

The rivalry between Harlem Democrats is played against the backdrop of presidential politics. Rangel, a close friend of the Clintons, is campaigning vigorously for retired Gen. Wes Clark. Powell made news recently when he endorsed Rev. Al Sharpton for president. The endorsement by the New York legislator puts him in the same camp as such prominent black business leaders as InterCity Broadcasting Corp. head Pierre Sutton and publishers Earl Graves and Edward Lewis–all of whom are major Sharpton contributors and could easily be Powell contributors “in the next few years.”