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Rangel dismisses critics, pledges tough re-election fight

By Alan Silverleib, CNN
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Rangel: 'Not asking for leniency'
  • Rep. Charlie Rangel demands a hearing before House ethics committee
  • Longtime congressman says he will be cleared of "vile" charges
  • Rangel is facing a tough Democratic primary in September
  • One of Rangel's opponents is the son of the man the lawmaker defeated in 1970

(CNN) -- U.S. Rep. Charlie Rangel, D-New York, under fire for alleged financial wrongdoing and harming the credibility of Congress, renewed his demand Thursday for a hearing before the House ethics committee.

The beleaguered 20-term congressman, stumping for votes in his Harlem district, also dismissed his upcoming Democratic primary opponents and pledged to run a tough re-election race over the next month.

Nothing "will stop me from clearing my name from these vile and vicious charges," he said.

Rangel's latest salvo against a growing chorus of critics came the day after he marked his 80th birthday at a gala celebration attended by New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, New York Gov. David Paterson, and singers Harry Belafonte and Dionne Warwick.

"I'm not asking for leniency," he said. But I want the ethics committee "to give me a hearing."

Video: Rangel celebrates with friends

Among other things, Rangel stands accused of using his influence to solicit donations for a college policy center bearing his name from corporate heads and others with business before the powerful House Ways and Means Committee.

Rangel was chairman of the committee until he was forced to give up the leadership position this year because of the pending allegations.

Other charges involve alleged income tax and financial disclosure violations as well as improper use of government mail service and letterhead.

As a result of the charges, the longtime Democratic House leader finds himself facing a strongly contested primary September 14. Among those seeking to replace Rangel: Assemblyman Adam Clayton Powell IV, whose scandal-plagued father was ousted by Rangel 40 years ago.

There are other people qualified to hold his seat, Rangel said Thursday, "but none of them are running in this race."

Rangel told reporters that Adam Clayton Powell Jr.'s biggest mistake when he lost in 1970 was "not coming home and campaigning. I may be making a lot of mistakes but that won't be one of them."

"You have to play the hand that's dealt you," he said. "And I know my hand."