Congressman Charles Rangel earned an almost-undefeatable lead over his Democratic challenger, State Senator Adriano Espaillat, in the primary ballot count on Friday, but the Espaillat campaign still hopes to fight the validity of the election in court. NY1's Grace Rauh filed the following report.
By Friday, Congressman Charles Rangel was ahead by nearly 1,000 votes in his Democratic Party primary. Since there are roughly 600 ballots left on the table, it is mathematically impossible for State Senator Adriano Espaillat to make up the difference.
The news caps off a difficult week-and-a-half for Rangel. He appeared to have won his Democratic primary decisively last week, but his margin shrank considerably as the Espaillat campaign cried foul.
Espaillat is challenging the election results in court, alleging Hispanic voters were turned away and bilingual election workers were replaced with ones who only spoke English.
Rangel's aides have said the accusations are a desperate attempt by a losing candidate to stay in the limelight.
“It reminds me, quite frankly, quite a bit of Dominican politics," said Moises Perez, Rangel's campaign manager. "I think in the last 25 years I haven't seen a single loser in Dominican elections who didn't claim massive fraud. Sort of like 'we didn't really lose.' It’s a way to rally up your base but this process is going to determine very shortly, you know, who it is that won this election.”
Both Perez and Espaillat are Dominican-American. A spokesman for Espaillat declined to comment on the remark.
The accusations of voter suppression and of favoring Rangel over Espaillat have wounded the Board of Elections, but officials there deny any impropriety.
"This idea about voter suppression, are you kidding me?" Board of Elections Commissioner J.C. Polanco said on NY1's "Inside City Hall" Thursday. "Where? When did it happen? You're launching false allegations, you're talking about corruption and fraud. This is the same Board of Elections, Sen. Espaillat, that certified your election to the Senate, that certified your election to the Assembly."
There could be a full manual recount if the final difference is less than one-half of 1 percent of all votes cast.
Rangel is strongly defending the BOE's handling of last week's primary but he has not responded to allegations of voter suppression or intimidation.
A state court judge ruled the city's Board of Elections can certify the election result, but the judge also has to approve it.
Both sides will be back in court on Wednesday.