Rangel wins heated primary fight

 

Rep. Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.) has been declared the winner of a nail-biting primary for his final term in Congress.

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The Associated Press has called the race for Rangel nearly a day after polls closed, with him leading New York state Sen. Adriano Espaillat (D) by 47 percent to 44 percent with 100 percent of precincts reporting.

Rangel declared victory Tuesday night, but Espaillat refused to throw in the towel, citing outstanding absentee ballots.

The win means Rangel, 84, is all but guaranteed a return to Congress after one of the toughest challenges of his career.

"Words cannot describe my overwhelming gratitude to the voters of the 13th congressional district of our great state for standing with me to the very end and giving this veteran his one last fight," Rangel said in a statement released after the AP call. "I am grateful for this special privilege to continue serving my beloved community and friends, both my dearest old friends in Upper Manhattan and new ones in the Bronx, whom I have had the greatest honor of representing in Congress. I've got a lot of fight in me and will not let them down."

Rangel faced a tough reelection battle in a district that became significantly more Hispanic and less African-American after 2010's redistricting, and has been rapidly changing due to gentrification. 

Espaillat, a hard-charging young lawmaker, had held him to a slim victory in 2012 and was back with more name recognition this time around. The changing district and questions about Rangel's ethics set up a tough race.

But Rangel, recovered from some health issues he faced two years ago, ran a stronger campaign this time around and fought hard enough to keep himself in Congress for one more term in the heavily Democratic Harlem-based district.

— This post was updated at 4:50 p.m.