NEW YORK — Rep. Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.) said Tuesday the Democratic primary result will be the "final judgment" on his ethics troubles as far as his constituents are concerned.
"This is the hearing for me in terms of going back to Washington," Rangel said after casting his vote.
Despite the ethics storm surrounding him, Rangel is the heavy favorite over a handful of rivals led by state Assemblyman Adam Clayton Powell IV.
Rangel entered the polling place at P.S. 175 in Harlem Tuesday morning to rousing applause from onlookers and other voters.
"You're staying Charlie," shouted one woman.
An emotional Rangel emerged from the school with his wife, Alma, to more cheers from the assembled crowd of Rangel supporters and volunteers, thanking them for their support before talking to reporters.
"I should have known that the heat in the kitchen would get this hot," said Rangel, who was both feisty and reflective.
He said the action of the House ethics committee "defies all the rules of law."
Rangel also alluded to the ethics troubles of the ranking Republican on the committee, Rep. Michael McCaul (Texas), noting that some of the members reviewing his case "have their own problems," but Rangel didn't mention McCaul by name.
When pressed, Rangel said, "I am not dealing with Washington today."
But Rangel did slam Republicans on a range of issues, highlighting immigration reform and taxes. He also took aim at some Democrats, "many of whom I helped get elected," for abandoning President Obama's legislative priorities.
Rangel admitted that he contemplated retirement "many, many times" over the past two years. "Let me tell you, my wife is here to verify, this has been the roughest emotional time since Korea," the 80-year-old congressman and Korean War veteran said.
Should he prevail Tuesday, Rangel was asked what he would do to assuage the concerns of those who didn't vote for him because of questions about his ethics issues.
"I promise them that I've never disappointed them legislatively, politically or morally," said Rangel. "I started off at 20 years old fighting for this country. I'm 80 years old and I'm still fighting for this country."