Would Harlem Elect a Republican? He Sure Hopes So

When Tony Evans was asked how he ended up as a Republican in a neighborhood where his party’s voters are outnumbered 20-to-1, he explained that he inherited his political affiliation the same way many people adopt their religious faith: His parents passed it down to him.

Despite the odds, Mr. Evans, the only Republican candidate in the 13th Congressional District race, knows that the math is hardly on his side.

  • Name: Tony Evans
  • Age: 54
  • Home Neighborhood: Central Harlem
  • Party Affiliation: Republican
  • Current Office/Job: Attorney

“If every Republican in this district voted three times, I still wouldn’t get elected,” said Mr. Evans, a 54-year-old defense lawyer. “The only way to get elected in Harlem or in this district is to get the support of a majority of people who are not in your party.”

Nevertheless, Mr. Evans is determined to make a case to voters that his beloved Harlem is in need of a radically new form of representation after nearly five decades of the leadership of Charles B. Rangel.

“One of the ladies at the church said, ‘You’re no Charlie Rangel, Tony’ and I said, ‘You got that right,’ and we both laughed because I don’t want to be Rangel,” Mr. Evans recalled.

A compactly built man with a closely cropped, salt-and-pepper beard, Mr. Evans was reluctant to widely discuss the specifics of his platform before the general election campaign. Broadly, though, he spoke of reducing neighborhood unemployment and improving education.

Mr. Evans was quick to point out that he was not a career politician. The last office he ran for was student representative in high school in West Virginia. (He won.)

In the years since, Mr. Evans has carved a circuitous career path. He was a stage actor and a banker, and now heads his own law firm. Mr. Evans worked with Citibank on Wall Street and said that he drew on that experience as he weighed a congressional run. Mr. Evans and his wife, Shawn, considered the barriers to entering the race, the competitors in the market and the overhead costs that they might incur — financial and otherwise.

After much discussion, Mr. Evans’s wife backed his candidacy. And so did many of the members of his parish, the Church of St. Charles Borromeo and Chapel of the Resurrection on West 141st Street near Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Boulevard.

There, on most Sundays, Mr. Evans can be found singing baritone in the men’s choir, much to the delight of the church’s pastor.

“His voice is heard strong and melodious,” said the Rev. Gregory Chisholm, who leads St. Charles.

The Rev. Chisholm said that Mr. Evans’s vocal talent is not the only thing that he has shared with his fellow parishioners. “He really tried to make himself available as a lawyer in church to help congregants,” the Rev. Chisholm said, referring to some of Mr. Evans’s pro bono work.

As remote as his chances may be, Mr. Evans said that he would also welcome the opportunity to serve the people of the 13th District as their representative — even if it means following in the footsteps of a larger-than-life figure like Mr. Rangel.

“The best thing in the world,” Mr. Evans said, smiling, “is to follow an icon, because expectations are low.”