Race Called for Rangel but Espaillat Won’t Concede

A racially split district, a heated race, and too many outstanding ballots for a concession.

NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 24: Rep. Charlie Rangel (D-NY) arrives to vote in the Democratic Primary for the 13th congressional district of New York on June 24, 2014 in the Harlem neighborhood of New York City. The 84-year-old congressman faces a tight Democratic primary election against state Sen. Adriano Espaillat. 
National Journal
Jack Fitzpatrick
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Jack Fitzpatrick
June 24, 2014, 8:36 p.m.

Rep. Charles Ran­gel has de­clared vic­tory in an­oth­er close primary race and the As­so­ci­ated Press has called the race in his fa­vor, but state Sen. Ad­ri­ano Es­pail­lat still has not con­ceded.

Ran­gel won with 47 per­cent of the vote, while Es­pail­lat had 44 per­cent, pas­tor Mike Wal­rond had 8 per­cent, and Bronx act­iv­ist Yolan­da Gar­cia had 1 per­cent when the AP called the race shortly be­fore 4 p.m. today. Ran­gel’s mar­gin stood at slightly more than 1,800 votes.

“Words can­not de­scribe my over­whelm­ing grat­it­ude to the voters “¦ for stand­ing with me to the very end and giv­ing this vet­er­an his one last fight,” Ran­gel said in a state­ment. He said he hoped “to be­gin the heal­ing pro­cess” after the di­vis­ive primary and an­nounced that he would at­tend a “unity rally” with Rev. Al Sharpton, who did not en­dorse him in the race.

But Es­pail­lat still has not con­ceded, cit­ing out­stand­ing ab­sent­ee and pro­vi­sion­al bal­lots. Es­pail­lat in­sisted that “every single vote needs to be coun­ted in this race,” in a state­ment late Tues­day night, and spokes­wo­man Chelsea Con­nor said Es­pail­lat has not changed his mind since then.

Ran­gel’s reelec­tion bids have be­come more dif­fi­cult since he was cen­sured in 2010 over sev­er­al eth­ics is­sues and es­pe­cially after re­dis­trict­ing in 2012 trans­formed his dis­trict in­to a ma­jor­ity-His­pan­ic con­stitu­ency.

In 2010, he barely won the ma­jor­ity of votes in a six-can­did­ate primary field. And in 2012, he didn’t even get ma­jor­ity sup­port in a crowded field but still beat Es­pail­lat by slightly more than 1,000 votes.

The re­match was ex­pec­ted to be com­pet­it­ive, al­though Ran­gel ap­peared to be ahead late, lead­ing by 13 points in a mid-June NY1/Si­ena Col­lege poll. He also had an ad­vant­age over Es­pail­lat in his re­li­able base of sup­port­ers who have kept him in of­fice for more than four dec­ades. But primary turnout is al­ways un­pre­dict­able, es­pe­cially since New York moved its con­gres­sion­al primar­ies from Septem­ber to June in 2012.

The dis­trict’s di­vided demo­graph­ics led to a di­vided race. In the NY1/Si­ena Col­lege poll, Ran­gel led Es­pail­lat among Afric­an-Amer­ic­an voters 76 per­cent to 6 per­cent, and Es­pail­lat led Ran­gel among His­pan­ic voters 53 per­cent to 29 per­cent. Ran­gel even ac­cused Es­pail­lat of en­ter­ing the race only be­cause he thought he could win over the His­pan­ic pop­u­la­tion.

“Just what the heck has he ac­tu­ally done be­sides say­ing he’s a Domin­ic­an?” Ran­gel said in a de­bate.

The de­bate also fo­cused on the length of Ran­gel’s ten­ure. Es­pail­lat and an­oth­er can­did­ate em­phas­ized their re­l­at­ive youth, while Ran­gel fre­quently mocked Es­pail­lat for his lack of ex­per­i­ence.

Ran­gel also did not have as much sup­port as he used to, miss­ing out on en­dorse­ments from Pres­id­ent Obama and May­or Bill de Bla­sio, both of whom stayed out of the race. In pre­vi­ous cam­paigns, Ran­gel had been en­dorsed by then-May­or Mi­chael Bloomberg, and he once again got Bill Clin­ton’s sup­port.

Ran­gel has said this would be his last reelec­tion cam­paign, mean­ing an­oth­er crowded field of Demo­crats will com­pete to take over the heav­ily Demo­crat­ic seat in two years.

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