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Espaillat Concedes to Rangel Once and for All

By  Jill Colvin and Carla Zanoni | July 9, 2012 12:54pm | Updated on July 9, 2012 4:26pm

INWOOD — State Sen. Adriano Espaillat conceded to Rep. Charlie Rangel once and for all Monday — nearly two weeks after a contentious primary battle divided Upper Manhattan — but refused to comment on his future and whether he will run again for his seat in Albany.

With nearly every vote counted, Rangel emerged as the victor with an insurmountable 1,069-vote lead, according to the latest Board of Elections numbers released late Sunday.

A final 27 ballots — 24 of which are believed to be valid — will be reviewed at 3 p.m. Monday, city lawyer Stephen Kitzinger said.

In light of the numbers, Espaillat said it was time for him to bow out from the race.

"We were short 2 percent," he told reporters at a press conference outside of his senate office Monday afternoon. "I want to congratulate Congressman Charles B. Rangel for his victory and tell him that I look forward to working with him as we move forward in the 13th Congressional District."

Espaillat is widely expected to launch a new campaign to defend his state Senate seat ahead of a Thursday filing deadline — but insisted Monday he hadn't made up his mind.

"I am considering a reelection bid and should have information within 48 hours," he said in Spanish, explaining that he was still analyzing which groups had voted in his favor and consulting with friends and family members for advice.

Espaillat must file his petitions with the Board of Elections by Thursday if he intends to run.

The move marks the final chapter in the fierce battle between Espaillat and the long-time congressman to represent the newly-redrawn district, which ended up far tighter than anyone would have guessed.

While Rangel was originally declared the decisive winner in the contentious June 26 race, his lead began to dwindle as new votes were discovered — shrinking to just 802 votes at one point — and forcing both candidates to admit the race was too close to call until all of the absentee and affidavit ballots were counted.

Espaillat also announced Monday that he has dropped his lawsuit alleging voter fraud in the election, but said he remains concerned about ballot access and the Board of Election's conduct on Election Day and will continue working with LatinoJustice and other nonprofit groups that intend to keep up the fight.

"The situation is difficult if not highly troubling," he said in Spanish. "The system needs reforming."

Espaillat's lawsuit had alleged widespread voter suppression, including efforts by Rangel supporters to keep Spanish-speaking voters away from the polls.

A Bronx Supreme Court Judge had issued an order last week that barred the board from completing the certification process until Espaillat had a chance to make his case.

The board is now expected to certify the results on Tuesday, its spokeswoman Valerie Vazquez said.

If Espaillat decides to defend his seat in the state senate seat, he will likely be forced into battle with his long-time rival, Assemblyman Guillermo Linares, who has already announced his plans to run.