Longtime Democratic Rep. Charles Rangel of New York secured his primary victory by 47% to 44% over state Sen. Adriano Espaillat on Wednesday afternoon, according to the Associated Press, after the news agency called the race some 18 hours after polls closed.
The bruising primary contest for New York's 13th Congressional District was previously ruled too close to call, as a result of an undetermined number of outstanding absentee and provisional ballots. Less than 2,000 votes separated the two opponents Tuesday night. Yet that uncertainty did not stop Rep. Rangel from declaring victory over Espaillat, tweeting "This is your victory! Thank you!" to his supporters.
"Words cannot describe my overwhelming gratitude to the voters of the 13th congressional district of our great state for standing with me to the very end and giving this veteran his one last fight," Rangel said in a statement Wednesday afternoon. "I am grateful for this special privilege to continue serving my beloved community and friends, both my dearest old friends in Upper Manhattan and new ones in the Bronx, whom I have had the greatest honor of representing in Congress."
Espaillat, meanwhile, has said he would not concede to Rangel. “As we learned in 2012, every single vote needs to be counted in this race," Espaillat's campaign said in a statement late Tuesday night. "Given the thousands of votes outstanding, the people of Upper Manhattan and The Bronx deserve a full accounting of every vote to achieve a complete and accurate tally in this race."
The board of Elections said on Wednesday that all absentee ballots received by July 1 will be counted in one week and the final results will be made official after next week’s paper count.
Rangel, an 84-year-old lawmaker who has symbolized Harlem for decades, has said this term will be his last. The primary winner is expected to be victorious in the general election representing the 13th Congressional district, which has an overwhelming Democratic majority.
On the campaign trail, Rangel pointed to his years of experience in Washington, D.C., arguing he was best qualified for the job. Meanwhile, Espaillat, 59, ran on a progressive platform and argued Rangel represented the status quo – criticizing the veteran lawmaker’s tenure, which was tainted by a 2010 ethics scandal in which he was found guilty of 11 House charges. The violations resulted in Rangel giving up his prized post as chairman of the powerful Ways and Means Committee. The race became ugly in its final weeks with both men accusing each other of race-baiting.
Had Espaillat won, he would have been on track to become the nation's first Dominican-American congressman. In 2012, he lost to Rangel for the same position by just over 1,000 votes. Many thought Espaillat would be able to pull out a win after being given a boost following redistricting, which resulted in the district having a Hispanic majority.
At polling sites, Espaillat backers said Rangel’s glory days were long gone. Gail Addiss, a 64-year-old architect said in Inwood that she voted for Espaillat because Rangel has proven “completely ineffective after his censure.” She added: “It’s time for a new person with a new agenda.”
Rangel supporters pointed to the politician’s achievements in civil rights and affordable housing. Earlier in the day, 59-year-old Gloria recounted moving to Harlem from South Carolina 32 years ago. She was scared to go outside. Buildings were in shambles, drugs were being sold on street corners in broad daylight and violence was rampant. She had one word to describe it: “hell.”
But now, when the 59-year-old looks around 119th street and Frederick Douglass Boulevard, she sees luxury condos, a Starbucks, and a new grocery store. She partially attributes the change in her neighborhood to Rangel.
“He’s been fighting all these years,” said the retired medical worker on Tuesday after she cast her ballot for Rangel at Emanuel Church in Harlem. “He’s really helped change the neighborhood,”