Charles Rangel Leads; Adriano Espaillat Won’t Concede

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Photo: Madeline Marshall/POLITICO


NEW YORK — Democratic Rep. Charles Rangel was leading his challenger Adriano Espaillat early Wednesday after a tough primary that presented the iconic congressman with the most serious threat of his lengthy political career.

The 84-year-old Rangel stopped short of declaring victory in his quest for a 23rd term, though he left little doubt as to which way he thought the race was going. But Espaillat, who barely lost to Rangel in 2012, refused to concede, pointing to votes yet to be counted.

With 100 percent of precincts reporting in New York’s 13th District, Rangel led Espaillat 47.4 percent to 43.6 percent, but The Associated Press said it was too close to call, with an unspecified number of absentee and provisional ballots still waiting to be counted. Reports suggested a declaration of a winner in the race may not be imminent.

The campaigns played out against a backdrop of demographic changes in Harlem that appeared to erode the African American congressman’s base of support, and many believed he was the underdog in the race. Rangel also saw many of his former allies abandon him and couldn’t fully shake the cloud that lingered from his ethics censure in 2010.

Rangel spoke to supporters at Taino Towers in Harlem around 11:15 p.m. Tuesday. He took the stage with his wife, Alma, to loud cheers. “We don’t need a whole lot of numbers to tell you how good we feel, how proud we feel,” he said to chants of “Charlie! Charlie!”

At around 1 a.m. E.T., Espaillat released a statement pointing out that in his 2012 race against Rangel, news outlets prematurely called the race for the incumbent only to see the gap close as more votes were counted. Rangel would go on to win that race by fewer than 1,100 votes.

“As we learned in 2012, every single vote needs to be counted in this race. 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,” Espaillat said.

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