NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — U.S. Rep. Charles Rangel’s Democratic primary challenger conceded on Monday, almost two weeks after a closely contested race in New York City that included allegations of polling place improprieties and even voter suppression.
State Sen. Adriano Espaillat, the first Dominican-American to serve in the state Legislature, would have become the first Dominican-American in Congress if he had prevailed.
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Over the weekend, Rangel had apparently clinched his primary victory by a margin of 990 votes. After a ballot count that ended Saturday, city Board of Elections spokeswoman Valerie Vazquez said the 82-year-old congressman received 18,940 votes. Espaillat won 17,950 votes in the June 26 primary.
“I am here to acknowledge that we came up short,” Espaillat said Monday afternoon, adding that he congratulated Rangel, and “I look forward to working with him as we move forward in the 13th Congressional District to ensure that the issues that are pertinent to every resident — are addressed and are taken care of.”
Espaillat said he continued to be concerned about the voting process and the operations of the Board of Elections, and that he would be cooperating with advocate groups that are looking into those issues.
He declined to identify specific allegations of improprieties or suppression, but pointed out that there had been some confusion on Election Day about new polling places because of newly drawn boundaries, and that the Board of Elections hadn’t sent out any information about the changes.
“These were the circumstances that were around on Election Day, we’re concerned about them,” he said.
He said he would decide in the next 48 hours whether he would run for re-election in the state Senate.
Rangel, a powerful New York politician who had survived many challenges to his longtime congressional tenure, is running for his 22nd term. His campaign manager, Moises Perez, did not immediately return a telephone call seeking comment.
Rangel faced one of his toughest fights since being elected to Congress in 1970, tainted by an ethics scandal that led to his censure in the House in 2010 and running with boundary changes that made the district majority Hispanic, seemingly favoring Espaillat.
The congressional primary appeared decided on election night June 26, with Rangel holding a sizable lead. But some precincts hadn’t been counted, and when they were, the lead quickly shrank to about 800 votes and a count of paper ballots loomed.
Espaillat had claimed in court that his supporters had been improperly turned away from polls. The parties had been due back in court Wednesday. Espaillat said his lawyers will drop the court action.
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