NEW YORK -- After being dogged by allegations of ethical misconduct for much of the past year, Rep. Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.) easily beat back his first primary challenge in nearly 20 years Tuesday.
With 59 percent of the precincts reporting, Rangel won with 53 percent of the vote.
The longtime lawmaker showed confidence in his victory early in the evening. He took the stage at his victory party in Harlem four times before the race was called.
"I'm going to go back to Washington with such pride," Rangel said before the results were in. "This isn't a win for Charlie Rangel, this is our community's win."
The 20-term lawmaker noted that "People should not reach conclusions without open hearings, without the sunshine looking in."
"God was able to expose the people who were so unfair through the ballot box," he said.
He took the stage one final time, after his win was announced, to rousing applause and chants of "Charlie, Charlie."
"I want you to know that no matter what they say, I go back to Washington stronger than I've ever been," he said.
The night ended with an on stage champagne toast. A clearly tired Rangel told supporters: "I can only say that this victory has to be yours."
The longtime congressman was then ushered out to his car amid a throng of press and supporters.
"Congratulations, Mr. Chairman," an aide said as the car door shut on Rangel.
Former mayor David Dinkins and longtime Manhattan District Attorney Bob Morgenthau were spotted at the party, as was Democratic Gov. David Paterson.
Paterson gave a rousing speech in support of Rangel before the race was called, telling supporters "for all those times he has stood by us, we stand by him."
Democratic Rep. Jerry Nadler was the lone member of the state's congressional delegation spotted at the bash.
Dinkins said a Rangel win sends a clear message to those in Congress who have called for his ouster. "Those who suggested some time ago that he step back will reassess and have a different point of view now," he told The Hill.
Rangel had four Democratic challengers, led by state Assemblyman Adam Clayton Powell IV, the son of the man Rangel defeated to first win the seat back in 1970.
His win is vindication for the congressman, who has assailed the actions of the ethics committee, which brought 13 charges against him earlier this summer.
"There are so many members they can destroy by just doing nothing," Rangel said of the ethics committee Monday. "If I was a first-termer, it's all over."
All of Rangel's primary challengers had called on him to step aside for the good of the district, but in a measure of just how entrenched and popular Rangel is, his underfunded rivals almost always qualified their criticism with words of appreciation for his contribution 40 years in Congress.
Earlier Tuesday, an emotional Rangel cast his primary vote in Harlem, calling the primary 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.
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.
Despite the ethics storm surrounding him, Rangel was the heavy favorite.
He spent the days ahead of the primary on a campaign blitz through New York’s 15th Congressional District that easily outshone anything his rivals were able to muster. His choice of venues appeared strategic as he planted himself right in Powell’s backyard.
On Sunday, Rangel spoke at Abyssinian Baptist Church, where Powell Jr. was formerly pastor. He followed that with a caravan through the heart of his district, beginning at his office in East Harlem. For close to an hour, Rangel sat on the back of a flatbed truck, waving to constituents.
After a Tuesday night victory bash in Harlem, Rangel heads back to Washington with a public ethics trial not expected to begin until after the November election.