The once-unquestioned dean of the congressional delegation said he'd rather focus on campaigning across his storied district in Manhattan's Harlem neighborhood.
"There's no question in my mind there are people who can more than adequately represent this great and diversified district. The problem is, none of them is running in this race," Rangel said, surrounded by cheering supporters.
Rangel faces a number of challengers, including state Assemblyman Adam Clayton Powell IV, in the Sept. 14 primary election. Rangel defeated Powell's father, the legendary Rep. Adam Clayton Powell Jr., in 1970. He is seeking his 20th term.
A House ethics panel has accused Rangel, the former House Ways and Means Committee chairman, of using official stationary to raise money for a college center bearing his name; delaying tax payments on income on a rental unit in the Dominican Republic; failing to file his financial disclosure statements on time; and operating four rent-stabilized apartments in New York, including one he used as a campaign office.
Rangel has vowed to fight the charges and is refusing to resign.
He's expected to face a public trial in the House this fall - a prospect that has spooked national Democrats already bracing for steep losses in November.
Rangel insisted his problems wouldn't affect the outcome of other races.
"I refuse to believe that I'm either that important or infamous that my problems are going to interfere with any good person getting elected," Rangel said, adding that he was sure his Democratic colleagues were serving their constituents well and that most were safely on their way to re-election.
He said he didn't expect much campaign help from Washington, since a Democrat will be elected to represent his politically reliable district even if he were to lose in the primary.
Rangel continued to hammer what he called negative and false news coverage that he said had driven most of the ethics complaints. Many of the Democratic lawmakers who attended his fundraiser, including Gov. David Paterson, Sens. Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand, and gubernatorial nominee Andrew Cuomo, did so because they know the hazards of being mischaracterized in the media, he said.
Former Mayor David Dinkins, who made an obscene gesture at a garrulous protester outside the fundraiser, captured his sense of frustration the best, he said.
"Mayor Dinkins really expressed my view the best last night," he said. "I can't find a better way to say it."