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Echoing Obama, Harlem Banker Seeks to Defeat Rangel

Black Star News, News Profile, Milton Allimadi Posted: Oct 14, 2009

Vincent S. Morgan, Harlem resident and a former aide to Rep. Charlie Rangel believes he's ready to succeed the veteran Congressman as Harlem's voice in Washington.

Morgan, who has declared his candidacy for Rangel's Congressional seat in a primary next year--Harlem's 15th Congressional District-- concedes it won't be easy unseating the veteran politician who has represented Harlem in Congress for the last 38 years, but he adds that he's ready for the mission. He says his upbringing makes it easy for him to relate to grassroots activists and people in the community.

"I grew up in Chicago," he said. "I was raised by a single parent. There were days when I went hungry with no food. I know what it takes to make it."

Morgan wants to make it clear that he's not a "downtown Wall Street banker" as he puts it. "I'm a community banker," he said, in an interview with The Black Star News, "I want to help build affordable housing."

Morgan says he plans to use the strategy deployed by President Barack Obama during his successful campaign by focusing on small donors, who gave an average of $101 to the then Illinois senator's campaign.

"It's going to take $2 million to win this race," he added. "I intend to win this race. Rangel already has $4 million in the bank," he noted, referring to information from campaign financial filings.

Morgan says he's already launched a grassroots fundraising effort: "My goal is to raise enough money to win this race. It's not going to be easy going up against this incumbent. Even small contributions adds up quickly; president Obama raised it five dollars at a time."

"That takes a candidate that can connect with people," he added, "I hope that my humble upbringing is going to help me connect with people in the community--This is our movement for change Uptown."

"Mr. Rangel is celebrating two very important anniversaries next year," Morgan continued. "The first is his 39th year in office, and the second is his 80th birthday. We need to develop a new generation of leadership--who look beyond a narrow focus."

At 40, Morgan's is almost half of Rangel's 79 years.

And what are Morgan's priorities if he were to unseat Rangel?

"We've got to create jobs Uptown; more jobs," he said. "We have got to support small businesses; those commercial corridors and businesses need help to sustain themselves and provide the services everyone needs."

He said he would also like to forge a stronger partnership between the tourism industry, small businesses in Harlem, cultural institutions, and elected officials to devise a way to ensure that more of the dollars spent by tourists is kept in Harlem. "There's a lot of money spent by tourists in New York. We need to do a better job of taking advantage of the opportunities that we have around culture around tourism--generating more dollars and keeping more dollars Uptown," he said.

Morgan was once a special assistant to Rangel and later worked as his campaign director in a re-election. He's now a vice president and community banking officer for TD Bank and a manager of Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) compliance for the State of New York and Northern New Jersey.

He says in addition to affordable housing and job creation, ensuring that the community retain more of the tourist dollars spent in Harlem, another top priority is education in the public schools.

He said while he's a believer in charter schools, these schools were never meant to displace or replace public schools. "There is a place for charter schools; they were meant to be specialized. But there has also got to be energy and resources for our public schools," he said.

Morgan said while he worked for Rangel for three and a half years, beginning in 2001, he had no knowledge of the alleged financial transgressions that have now entangled Rep. Rangel and led to an ongoing investigation by an ethics committee in Congress.

Asked if he believed Rangel would survive the probe and the demands by Republican lawmakers that he be relieved of his chairmanship of the House Ways and Means Committee, Morgan said: "I believe that Rangel should be able
to serve out his term in a manner befitting someone who has been a public servant for almost 40 years. That's all I'm going to say about the matter."

Morgan added, "If I need to tear down someone in order to build myself up, then I shouldn't be in the race. I don't want to play that game." He said a major network Television station had tried unsuccessfully to get him to badmouth Rangel.

He said the House Ethics Committee would eventually return with a "reasonable conclusion" on the Rangel probe.

He said he developed a connection with Harlem residents and learned of the community's needs while working for Rep. Rangel. "I learned from him," he said, of Rangel. "I was dealing with people day-to-day. People who had lost their jobs, people who needed help with immigration, people who were about to lose their housing."

Morgan grew up with his mother in Chicago's Bronzeville community. Although he dropped out of high school at 16, he later attended Howard University, graduated from the University of Illinois at Chicago with an undergrad degree, and earned a Master's degree in Public Administration from Columbia. He is married to Shola Lynch, a documentary film maker, and the couple has two infant children Julian and Violet. They live on 116th Street in Harlem.

Rep. Rangel didn't return a phone message seeking comment by press time.

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