Espaillat Declares Victory in Charlie Rangel's New York Seat

Keith Wright, Rangel's favored candidate, refuses to concede

New York state Sen. Adriano Espaillat, right, declared victory Tuesday, but as of midnight, the Associated Press had not yet called the race. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

For the first time in 46 years, New York Democrat Charles B. Rangel will not be in Congress next year.

His successor is still unknown. As of midnight, the Associated Press had not yet called the winner in Tuesday's primary in the safe Democratic 13th District.

State Sen. Adriano Espaillat led Assemblyman Keith Wright 37 to 34 percent, with 98 percent of precincts reporting. Nine Democrats were running for the nomination.  

Espaillat declared victory. But Wright said he wasn't ready to concede. 

"No candidate can declare victory tonight, not until every vote is counted," Wright said.

Rangel, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand and state Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie backed Wright, chairman of the Manhattan Democratic Party.  

This district has a history of close Democratic primaries, with Espaillat, a Dominican-American, twice narrowly losing to Rangel, a founding member of the Congressional Black Caucus.

The winner in this race may reflect the demographic shifts in the district. Redistricting in 2012 changed it from a majority black district to a majority Hispanic district that included parts of the Bronx as well as its traditional Harlem stronghold. Wright is African-American.

If he won the general election, Espaillat would be the first member of Congress born in the Dominican Republic.

First elected in 1970, Rangel has cruised to re-election every two years since. His toughest political battles have been his primaries.

In 2014, he narrowly defeated Espaillat , with the AP not calling the race until the next day. Two years earlier, additional ballot-counting revealed their matchup to be so close that Espaillat filed a lawsuit. Espaillat lost that 2012 race by fewer than 1,000 votes and eventually conceded several weeks after the primary.

The 86-year-old Rangel, who received both the Purple Heart and Bronze Star for service in Korea, has had a powerful — if colored — tenure on the Hill.

He was the longest serving member of the powerful Ways and Means Committee. But some of his clout in Congress waned after 2010, when the full House censured him for ethics violations. The House Ethics Committee investigated him for using a rent-stabilized apartment and congressional letterhead for campaign activities as well as for failing to disclose personal assets.  

Contact Pathé at  simonepathe@rollcall.com  and follow her on Twitter at  @sfpathe .

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