HARLEM — State Sen. Adriano Espaillat claimed victory over Rep. Charles Rangel’s hand-picked successor after Tuesday night’s Democratic congressional primary, but the sitting Congressman immediately called for a recount.
In his third run for the seat, Espaillat, 61, led with 37 percent of the vote compared to 34 percent for Assemblyman Keith Wright, who was endorsed by Rangel, with close to 98 percent of precincts reporting as of Wednesday afternoon.
A little more than 1,000 votes separated the two, with Espaillat earning 15,735 votes compared to 14,449 for Wright, according to the Board of Elections' unofficial tally.
While Espaillat declared victory, Wright would not concede the race Tuesday night and called for absentee and affidavit ballots to be counted, renewed allegations of voter suppression by a pro-Espaillat group and called for an investigation by the Department of Justice.
“No candidate can declare victory tonight until every vote is counted," Wright said at a campaign event Tuesday night, which aired on FOX 5 Wednesday morning.
"This race is further complicated by the real possibility of a lot of campaign irregularities and voter suppression.”
The Espaillat campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment regarding Wright’s claims.
The Wall Street Journal reported that Espaillat derisively said, “Oh, please,” when asked about Wright’s call for an investigation.
Rangel, in a live interview on FOX 5 Wednesday morning, suggested there should be a recount in addition to counting of all paper ballots.
“I’m not confident at all…knowing the past ability of the Board of (Elections) to miscount votes,” Rangel said. “I’m confident that we need a re-count.”
The city Board of Elections said the results available are unofficial and there will be a counting of all paper ballots, which includes affidavit, absentee and overseas ballots, among others.
“All those have to be counted before the commissioner has to certify the election itself,” said Valerie Vazquez, the board’s spokeswoman.
Rangel, however, agreed that Espaillat appeared to have the upper hand.
“I wish we were on the other side of the results that we have now, but… at this time we’re trailing at about a thousand votes,” Rangel said.
“I’m anxious to get it over so that I can help the newly-elected Congressman to make that transition to Washington before I leave.”
Espaillat, who has served in the state Senate for the past five years and previously in the Assembly for 13 years, could become the first Dominican-born person elected to Congress.
Espaillat came close to beating Rangel, 86, who has held the seat since 1971, in the 2014 primary and lost by less than five percentage points in the 2012 primary.
The other candidates who vied for the seat included: Assemblyman Guillermo Linares, former aide to President Barack Obama Clyde Williams, former Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom Suzan Johnson Cook, first-time candidate Michael Gallagher, former Assemblyman Adam Clayton Powell IV, Sam Sloan and Yohanny Caceres.
The district includes Harlem, Morningside Heights, a small portion of the Upper West Side, Washington Heights, Inwood and several neighborhoods in The Bronx.
Harlem is the core of the district and the neighborhood has only been represented in Congress by two elected officials — Rangel and civil rights icon Adam Clayton Powell Jr. — since 1945.