Charles B. Rangel, the longtime Harlem congressman who encountered the most challenging reelection battle of his career, prevailed in a tough Democratic primary in his quest for a 23rd term in Congress.
Rangel outpaced his closest rival, New York State Senator Adriano Espaillat, who sought for a second time to become the nation’s first Dominican-born member of Congress. With 99 percent of the votes counted in unofficial results, Rangel secured 47.5 percent of the vote, with Espaillat receiving nearly 43 percent. A third candidate, the Rev. Michael Walrond, garnered 8 percent.
The reelection battle of the 84-year-old congressman was one of the most closely watched primaries in the country. Espaillat had argued that Rangel, who was first elected in 1970, had been in office too long and that it was time for new blood. Others had maintained that Rangel’s influence in Congress had diminished after a series of ethics scandals.
Still the congressman, a founding member of the Congressional Black Caucus, maintained that he was in the best position to deliver for the district, which had changed shape after the last census and is now majority Latino.
Even before all the votes had been tabulated late Tuesday, Rangel took the stage in a hall in Manhattan, where he thanked supporters. Rangel had been endorsed by a former president Bill Clinton, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and a host of local officials, including New York City Public Advocate Letitia James.
“With patience and fortitude, Congressman Rangel has stood the test of time and he will remain the lion of Lenox Avenue,” James told the crowd at Rangel's celebration. She was among a wide range of Democratic figures who were at Rangel's side at the victory celebration, including former New York City Mayor David N. Dinkins.
While it was a highly hard fought race, Rangel emerged with a lead of more than 2,000 votes over Espaillat, nearly double the lead the congressman won two years ago. In the end, there were a number of questions about how the race would play out in upper Manhattan's ethnic landscape, namely whether Rangel would be able to attract white and Puerto Rican votes.
Follow Jonathan Hicks on Twitter: @HicksJonathan
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(Photo: Andrew Burton/Getty Images)