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Rangel fends off five primary opponents

By Mary Snow, CNN
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Rangel wins despite ethics charges
  • NEW: Charles Rangel wins Democratic primary for U.S. House seat in New York
  • Longtime congressman facing ethics trial in House later this month
  • Robocalls featuring Bill Clinton's voice urged voters to back Rangel
  • One of Rangel's opponents was son of congressman whom Rangel defeated 40 years ago

New York (CNN) -- He's served in Congress for almost 40 years, but Tuesday's primary in New York was unlike any other for Democratic Congressman Charles Rangel.

The 80-year-old Rangel, facing five challengers and 13 ethics allegations in the House, came out on top in the Democratic primary for New York's 15th district, CNN has projected.

On the eve of the primary, robocalls using former President Bill Clinton's voice went out telling voters: "We need Charlie to go back to Washington, to work with President Obama to say, 'Yes.' "

Despite the ethics allegations, support still poured in for Rangel because "he's been a great congressman for Harlem," said Democratic strategist and CNN contributor Paul Begala.

Video: Ethics probe can't stop Rangel

"Maybe I'm making this up, but I wonder if a little of the support Rangel is getting is not the same sort of anti-establishment thing in his district. The president came out and kind of pushed Charlie out," Begala said.

"So maybe there was even a little anti-establishment tension within the Democratic Party, this time directed at the president, who is the ultimate establishment figure now."

In July, Obama called the allegations against Rangel troubling and said in a CBS interview that he hoped the embattled congressman could end his career in dignity.

Of Rangel's five opponents, Adam Clayton Powell IV had the biggest name recognition. He is the son of the late U.S. Rep. Adam Clayton Powell, who served from 1945 to 1971 and was defeated by Rangel after a scandal-plagued career.

Despite Powell's recognition, The New York Times editorial board said the assemblyman has done little in Albany and instead endorsed Joyce Johnson, a former business executive and educator who has run for state offices.

Other contenders included Vince Morgan, a onetime Rangel staffer, and regular campaigners Jonathan Tasini and Ruben Vargas.

As other candidates seized on the ethics cloud hanging over him, Rangel remained defiant, declaring nothing "will stop me from clearing my name from these vile and vicious charges."

Those charges include alleged income tax and financial disclosure violations and using his influence to solicit donations for a college policy center bearing his name from corporate heads and others before the House Ways and Means Committee.

Rangel chaired the committee before being forced to step aside because of the accusations.

As Rangel fights against the allegations, he's counted on support from voters in New York's 15th Congressional District who think he's being unfairly treated.

Tuesday's turnout also indicates Rangel has kept pace with the changing demographics in Harlem, the heart of his district.

What's been known as the "capital of black America" is now majority Latino with a growing population of gay white men.