After serving in the United States House of Representatives for an unbroken 43 years, 84-year-old Congressman Charlie Rangel has won yet another term, defeating Democratic primary challenger and New York State Senator Adriano Espaillat. With 98 percent of precincts reporting, WNYC’s election results show Rangel as the winner, with 47 percent of the vote to Espaillat’s 43 percent, or roughly 1,800 votes. But Espaillat has refused to concede, saying there are still absentee ballots that need to be counted. There are, but that’s probably not going to help him out much.
Espaillat, 59, previously challenged Rangel in 2012, who still managed to squeeze out a narrow victory, defeating the younger man by less than 1,100 votes. That was particularly impressive given that his 2010 censure by the House was still fairly fresh in voters’ minds. Rangel was censured for failing to pay taxes on a villa in the Dominican Republic, and for hoarding four rent-stabilized apartments, one of which he illegally used as a campaign office. Espaillat challenged the election results for more than a week after the June 26 election in 2012 before eventually conceding defeat.
The other challengers in this year’s race didn’t fare particularly well, although Pastor Michael Walrond, who lives in New Jersey but has a church in Harlem, still garnered about 1,000 votes, enough to slightly tamper with Rangel’s lead. Meanwhile, Bronx activist Yolanda Garcia, who mainly made news for claiming that someone in the Espaillat campaign had come to her house to threaten her in the middle of the night, won barely over 200 votes.
The Rangel/Espaillat match-up was notable mostly for its general dirtiness: the two men persistently accused one another of race-baiting, although, as DNAinfo reported today, both men managed to climb out of the mud long enough to head for the polls and vote for themselves, Rangel in Harlem and Espaillat in Inwood.
From the stage tonight at his election party, Rangel was slightly less polite. Around 11:30, with 88 percent of precincts reporting, as he tried to decide whether or not to call the race for himself, he told the roaring crowd “I should congratulate Adriano for doing the best with what he had to work with.” Meanwhile, according to several media outlets, Espaillat did not put in an appearance at his own party, nor did he give a concession speech after the race was called.
Instead, according to the New York Times, he issued a statement at 12:53 a.m., which read: “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.” The NYT says the city Board of Elections has received about 980 completed absentee ballots so far, a number that can’t sway the election in Espaillat’s favor, even if every single one was cast for him. Eighty percent of the ones that have been counted so far were declared valid; there are still 3,516 other absentee ballots that haven’t been returned.
Although Rangel’s victory has narrowed with every subsequent election for the past few years, this year’s win wasn’t a complete surprise: pre-election polls showed Rangel leading Espaillat by 13 points. Espaillat’s name recognition among voters was weaker, and 25 percent of voters polled had a negative opinion of him. The New York Times reported that Espaillat had dismissed those polls as unreliable, saying they didn’t take Spanish-speaking voters into account.
At both men’s election night parties, things reportedly got weird:
According to one Rangel supporter, the Congressman is in the building, and “kissed her.” A person with the campaign says he doesn’t know.
— Gideon Resnick (@GideonResnick) June 25, 2014
Meanwhile, former City Council candidate Thomas Lopez-Pierre showed up to Espaillat’s shindig. Lopez-Pierre is known for precisely one thing: penning racist, anti-Semitic emails attacking his opponent, Mark Levine. The Espaillat people made sure to emphasize he wasn’t invited:
Controversial race-baiting city council candidate Thomas Lopez-Pierre just entered Espaillat party; campaign spox said he wasn’t invited
— Corinne Lestch (@NYDNCorinne) June 25, 2014
— eric kuo (@erickuo) June 25, 2014
There are still absentee and provisional ballots be counted in the race. It’s not yet clear whether Espaillat will challenge the election results as he did in 2012.
Update, 12:04 a.m.: Espaillat is definitely not conceding tonight, although, as the New York Observer gently and tactfully puts it, “It’s not immediately clear that Mr. Espaillat actually has any path to victory left.”
This post has been updated throughout with absentee ballot numbers and a statement from Senator Espaillat.