Congressman Charles Rangel (D-NY) laughs with New York Governor David Paterson (R), who emceed the party marking Rangel's 80th birthday August 11, 2010.
In New York politics, where unlikely comeback attempts are becoming common, one of the most unexpected may be developing as former Gov. David Paterson says he's may run for Congress if Rep. Charles Rangel retires.
"I'm definitely looking at it," Paterson said Monday in his most expansive comments about the idea first floated in May.
Paterson had represented much of the district before as a state senator, beginning in 1985, even as the district evolved to include more Latinos than blacks.
Rangel didn't initially respond to a request Monday for comment on whether he'll seek another term representing the Harlem district in the seat he's held for more than 40 years. Rangel had just $160,000 in his campaign account at the end of June. By comparison, Rep. Pete King, a Long Island Republican and a veteran, had more than $2.5 million in his account, according to the Federal Elections Commission.
Assemblyman Keith Wright, a Harlem Democrat and veteran in the Legislature who also has been considered a possible successor to Rangel, also didn't respond to a request for comment.
Paterson's return to public office would follow that of his former boss, former Gov. Eliot Spitzer, who is running for New York City comptroller. Spitzer's resignation after a prostitution scandal made Paterson, then the lieutenant governor, New York's first black governor in 2008.
Paterson spent much of his brief term cutting spending and ordering layoffs during a fiscal crisis. That contributed to a steep drop in his popularity as his traditional powerful allies in labor targeted him in a statewide TV ad blitz.
"It had gotten to the point that the only friends I had left were Republicans," Paterson joked.
He ultimately decided to withdraw from seeking a full term months after Democrat Andrew Cuomo announced his candidacy.
But Paterson, who would be 60 if elected to Congress next year, also said a younger candidate might be preferable.
"I'm looking to see if someone will come forward to really speak for a changing and diverse community that is the congressional district," Paterson said. "But I just find that the types of people I emulated when I was going around and served just aren't around anymore. Everyone is a deal maker. And that is what doesn't close off my interest."
Paterson said he is enjoying "the brand of being an ex-governor," and finds he may have more fans now — after the crisis he warned of hit hard — than when he was in office in a tenure marked by conflict. In one of the controversies, he was fined $62,000 for violating ethics laws in obtaining World Series tickets from the Yankees for himself and his son.
"People stop me and say, 'They gave you a raw deal, I liked how hard you tried,'" Paterson said.