HARLEM — State Sen. Adriano Espaillat conceded defeat in his race against Rep. Charles Rangel in the 13th Congressional District Democratic primary Thursday and said he plans to run for re-election to the Senate seat he currently holds.
“I want to express my deepest appreciation for all of the efforts of my supporters and volunteers on my campaign for Congress,” Espaillat, 59, said in a statement.
With 100 percent of precincts reporting, Rangel had won 47.4 percent of the votes compared to Espaillat's 43.7 percent, a difference of less than 2,000 votes, according to the Board of Elections.
But because there were outstanding absentee ballots and affidavits, Espaillat refused to concede, saying "every single vote needs to be counted in this race," and recalling the 2012 primary where Rangel's margin of victory declined after new votes were discovered.
Espaillat also filed a lawsuit in 2012 alleging voter fraud, which he eventually withdrew.
Rangel, 84, declared victory on election night. There is no Republican opponent in the November general election so Rangel will win a 23rd term. He has said it will be his last.
On Wednesday, the Board of Elections said there were 738 validated absentee ballots in Manhattan and 242 in The Bronx and that ballots could be received through next Tuesday.
The board was still calculating the number of affidavits, which are ballots cast by individuals whose names were not in BOE records in the district where they voted.
But most experts said that paper ballots tend to follow machine voting patterns, making it extremely unlikely that Espaillat would be able to pull out a victory. The Associated Press initially said the election was too close to call, but declared Rangel the winner Wednesday.
At a ribbon cutting for the Boriken Neighborhood Health Center on Third Avenue and 123rd Street in East Harlem Thursday, Rangel said he had been told by aides that Espaillat was trying to reach him to concede the race.
Espaillat released an official statement a few hours later saying that he had called Rangel to "offer his congratulations — not only on his successful reelection campaign, but on his lifetime of service to the community."
"Even though I will not be representing the 13th District in Congress, I will continue to fight for opportunity for all," Espaillat wrote, before announcing his re-election bid for the state Senate.
Former City Councilman Robert Jackson also announced his bid Thursday for the Senate seat in what looks to be a crowded field.
During a bitter campaign that featured accusations of race-baiting, Rangel criticized Espaillat's qualifications, saying: "Just what the heck has he done except say he's a Dominican?" during a debate.
Rangel and Espaillat have both agreed to appear at the Rev. Al Sharpton's National Action Network headquarters Saturday in what is being dubbed as a "unity rally" after the divisive race.
Rangel also accused Espaillat of preparing a secret campaign to run for his Senate seat again, as he did in 2012, if he lost the congressional primary.
Asked about Espaillat's failure to concede on election night, Rangel said: "I don't know what Sen. Espaillat is doing. I would assume he's gathering signatures to run for the Senate again."
Rangel was much more conciliatory when asked about Espaillat Thursday, smiling as he said: "I heard he's trying to reach me."