Charlie Rangel Faces His Scott Brown

What better message to send to Washington than to defeat an old bull like Charlie Rangel?

Rangel is one of the principal symbols of the tolerance Washington has for corrupt insider politics. He is Chairman-in-school-detention of the House Ways and Means Committee, pending efforts of Democrats to avoid the most devastating midterm election defeat in history.

Because he usually doesn't have a serious challenger, Rangel is able to funnel in the neighborhood of a half-million dollars every election cycle to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC). Such political largesse protects corruption. Nancy Pelosi and her fellow Democrats dole out committee chairs to, and overlook the offenses of, big-money lieutenants like Rangel.

Last week at the Susan B. Anthony List dinner, I sat with Reverend Michel Faulkner, the career non-politician announced as the Republican challenger to Charlie Rangel. That made a special night all the more special.

You see, a little over a week before, Bart Stupak was scheduled to receive a pro-life award at the Susan B. Anthony List dinner. Instead, he was ceremoniously dumped by the group's president, Marjorie Dannenfelser, for showing that his commitment to his party and its corrupt, socialist ways was stronger than his commitment to the life issue.

Meeting him for the first time just that evening, my first impression of Rev. Faulkner is that he conveys his message in conversation rather than slogans, which struck me as refreshing. There was no "I plan to introduce this bill," and certainly no rehearsed lines. The closest he came was, "The people in my district want jobs, not programs," but he said even that with the conversational sincerity of a friend or neighbor, not a candidate meeting someone for the first time.

He told me about himself. He's a pastor, and he founded a nonprofit called the Institute for Leadership. He works with the poor and the homeless. He fosters leadership within his community. He is -- dare I say it? -- a community organizer, but one who believes in and practices the free market and the Gospel.

Later in the conversation, he said something that made me a sure supporter of his run. Politicians -- Republicans, nonetheless -- who recognized his outstanding work in the community, offered him government money for his nonprofit. Rev. Faulkner declined taking taxpayer money. He has wisdom, for he knows that he who pays the fiddler calls the tune.

I asked him why he decided to run. He answered exactly as I had hoped. Things stink. The country's going in the wrong direction. We need new leaders, ones with principles who are willing to acknowledge their roles as responsive to the people, not the reverse. He spoke about freedom and the principles on which America was founded, and how far off course our leaders -- not our people -- have gone.

He said that the people in his district are hardworking, and they deserve someone representing them in Washington who doesn't have four rent-controlled apartments.

I then gave him the test I've recently learned about how to measure a candidate. I asked him, "Are you a boat-rocker?" A welcoming grin came across his face, and he said, "Oh yeah. That, and more." He told me he doesn't want to go to Washington just to slow down the corruption and bankruptcy-level spending of government.

So, Charlie Rangel has a problem. Michel Faulkner combines the best leadership qualities of being both brave and humble, a man who walks with the poor and the powerful, and most of all, someone who seems to be entering politics for the right reasons.

Will Charlie Rangel show the courage of the Korean War vet he is and debate Rev. Faulkner, or will the Washington-insider, tax-evading Rangel duck a debate?

Speaking of where we were from, I told him I lived far across the Potomac River in Virginia. He said that he grew up in the Washington area. I asked him how he ended up in New York. The answer is football. He played a year with the New York Jets. Not a massive man sitting down, he must have been a quarterback or defensive back, I thought to myself. At the end of the dinner when he stood up, I changed my mind. Definitely a lineman. That ended any notion I had of telling him I'm a New England Patriots fan.

You can check out Rev. Faulkner's campaign website for yourself.