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Rangel Declares Victory; Espaillat Says Race Too Close To Call

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UPDATED 05/25/14 12:57 a.m.

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) – U.S. Rep. Charles Rangel declared victory in the 13th Congressional District Democratic primary in a long speech to his supporters late Tuesday, while opponent state Sen. Adriano Espaillat said the race was too close to call and went home for the night.

Rangel was seeking a 23rd — and final – term, while Espaillat said it is time for a fresh face on Capitol Hill.

With 99 percent of the precincts reporting very early Wednesday, Rangel had 47 percent of the vote compared with 44 percent for Espaillat.

Rangel came out at his Harlem campaign headquarters and addressed supporters late Tuesday while only about 70 percent of the precincts had reported in. He announced that he wanted to “sweat this one out together” with his supporters rather than watch the results in private.

He went on to ask how many precincts had been counted, and learning that he was a few points ahead, he expressed concern about which areas still had yet to have their votes counted. As the lengthy speech went on, Rangel continued to receive live updates on the vote count, pondering at what point it was time to declare victory.

Finally, after speaking for more than half an hour, he called Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-N.Y.) to announce the victory.

Meeks announced “the chairman has won” as balloons came down. Rangel went on to thank many supporters, before finally saying: “I can’t thank you enough. It was a great victory,” and leaving the stage shortly after midnight Wednesday morning.

But there was no concession from opponent Espiallat, who had already left his campaign headquarters for the night by the time Rangel declared victory.

Espaillat came out to address the crowd at his own Inwood headquarters, saying his team had reviewed the results, and “we have decided the race is too close to call.”

Soon afterward, Espaillat got in a car and left his campaign headquarters without conceding. Shortly before 1 a.m., his campaign released a statement.

“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 in the statement.

CBS 2 Political Reporter Marcia Kramer said it remains to be seen on Wednesday whether a recount will be ordered.

Rangel, 84, has faced a tough challenge to hold onto his 13th Congressional District seat from Espaillat, who is seeking to become the first Dominican-born member of Congress.

Rangel, 84, has faced a tough challenge to hold onto his 13th Congressional District seat from Espaillat, who is seeking to become the first Dominican-born member of Congress.

Rangel announced Tuesday that if he wins, his next term would be his last, CBS 2’s Kramer reported.

At headquarters, the Rangel campaign had everything – live music, platters of food, pictures of a smiling Rangel, and even an heir apparent. Former state Assemblyman Adam Clayton Powell IV told Kramer he is gearing up for a run in 2016.

Rangel headquarters was also filled with enthusiastic supporters.

“I think we’re felling cautiously optimistic, as they say. You know, we didn’t take anything for granted. The congressman has been all over the district over the last few days – from Inwood to Norwood, East Harlem to Central Harlem and Washington Heights – everywhere in between,” one supporter said. “So we’re feeling good.”

Espaillat’s campaign earlier was likewise cautiously optimistic that they could still pull out a win late Tuesday, CBS 2’s Hazel Sanchez reported.

“People just want a change,” said state Sen. Ruben Diaz (D-The Bronx.) “It’s time to move forward, turn the page, write a new chapter for this beautiful district, have a way where Manhattan and the Bronx can be united.”

“I’m elated,” added City Councilman Mark Levine (D-7th.) “The response out in the street today was just – it was so overwhelming; a real sense of excitement for Senator Espaillat.”

In such a heavily Democratic district, the primary winner is widely expected to win the general election in November.

Voting, which ended at 9 p.m., was brisk at P.S. 187 Hudson Cliffs, where Espaillat campaigned outside, WCBS 880’s Marla Diamond reported.

The state senator sounded confident while taking a jab at his opponent’s lengthy tenure.

Rep. Charles Rangel, State Sen. Adriano Espaillat Face Off In Primary Election

espaillat2 Rangel Declares Victory; Espaillat Says Race Too Close To Call
Marla Diamond reports

“He’s not effective anymore, and it’s not a shot at him,” Espaillat told Diamond. “But that’s a reality. You know, since he’s had some issues in Congress, he’s lost clout.”

Rangel was found guilty of 11 House ethics charges in 2010, which forced him to relinquish his post as chairman of the powerful Ways and Means Committee.

Congressional candidate Adriano Espaillat campaigns in Washington Heights on June 24, 2014. (Credit: Marla Diamond/WCBS 880)

Congressional candidate Adriano Espaillat campaigns in Washington Heights on June 24, 2014. (Credit: Marla Diamond/WCBS 880)

Also running was the Rev. Michael Walrond, the pastor of the First Corinthian Baptist Church, and Yolanda Garcia, who did very little campaigning.

Rangel beat Espaillat last year involved disputed election results and a lawsuit. If anything, this year’s campaign has been even nastier, including charges of racial politics in a redrawn district covering northern Manhattan and the Bronx that was historically black but has become majority Hispanic.

Rangel, who entered Congress in 1970 after beating longtime politician Adam Clayton Powell Jr., is best known for pushing for a low-income tax credit that fueled the nation’s largest affordable housing program and for creating an empowerment zone that changed the face of Harlem.