NEW YORK-- Democratic Rep. Charles Rangel declared victory late Tuesday night in what is likely to be the final primary election of his 44-year congressional career. His top opponent, however, state Sen. Adriano Espaillat, refused to concede the race.
With nearly 100 percent of precincts reporting early Wednesday morning, according to The Associated Press, Rangel leads Espaillat by nearly four points in the 13th Congressional District Democratic primary in New York. Rangel received 47.4 percent of the vote to Espaillat's 43.7 percent. That's a difference of about 1,800 votes out of more than 47,000 cast.
Rangel spoke to supporters at the Taino Towers in Harlem Tuesday night, taking the stage shortly after 11 p.m. He gave a rambling speech for nearly half an hour while simultaneously receiving live updates on the vote count, CBS reports. He even pondered aloud when it would be time to declare victory.
Once NY1 called the race for Rangel, Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-NY) took to the podium and yelled, "The chairman has won!” The crowd erupted in loud cheers.
Rangel then officially declared victory, seemingly closing out a bitter primary contest with Espaillat. Rangel, who was first elected in 1971, has said that this will be his final campaign.
“This was your victory," Rangel told supporters Tuesday. "This is your congressman. And you can rest assured that what I’ll do is be thinking about you and bringing those resources home.”
Meanwhile, further uptown, outside 809 Bar and Grill in Inwood, Espaillat told supporters that the race was "too close to call."
“We think it is prudent to wait for the final results before we make any announcement,” Espaillat said before leaving the stage and walking directly to his car.
In a statement sent to reporters after the event, Espaillat said there were still thousands of votes to be counted, perhaps referring to yet uncounted absentee and affidavit ballots. It's unclear how many of those ballots there are.
"As we learned in 2012, every single vote needs to be counted in this race," Espaillat said. "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.”
Espaillat lost to Rangel in 2012 by a little over 1,000 votes after a lengthy recount. If elected this time, Espaillat would be the first Dominican-American congressman in U.S. history. Should Wednesday morning's numbers stand, Espaillat will have lost by nearly double that amount.
The apparent defeat would prove that shifting demographics in the 13th District were not enough to doom Rangel. Redistricting caused what was traditionally an African-American district -- a characteristic that had always benefited Rangel -- to become majority Latino.
The race between Espaillat and Rangel was heated from the beginning, and often fought along ethnic lines.
Rangel attacked Espaillat for allegedly capitalizing on his Dominican-ness, while lacking any political experience at a national level.
Espaillat, meanwhile, accused Rangel of being ineffective in Congress, particularly after his 2010 censure for ethics violations. He also went after Rangel for his close ties to Wall Street.