Rangel blasts opponent for lawsuit challenging primary vote count

Rep. Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.) on Wednesday blasted his Democratic primary opponent state Sen. Adriano Espaillat after the challenger filed a lawsuit late Tuesday night alleging voter suppression and asking courts to consider a recount or new election.

"You can’t just call people crooks and say that they're committing illegal acts," Rangel said in a speech to supporters in Harlem, according to a report in the New York Daily News

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Rangel accused Espaillat of slandering election workers whom he said were not responsible for the counting fiasco, which has seen Rangel's seeming victory in the Democratic primary two weeks ago challenged.

"Don’t knock the system. It’s all we have," Rangel said. "Let us improve the system if it has to be improved." 

Reports said Rangel's rally was attended by approximately 20 supporters.

The 82-year-old lawmaker appeared to have won his primary contest on June 26, declaring victory and having Espaillat concede.

Since then, as ballots have continued to be counted, Rangel's reported margin of victory has shrunk from 6 points on election night, when reports gave him a 46 percent to 38 edge with 82 percent of precincts reporting.

Reports said that Rangel's lead now was at 802 votes, with 2,000 paper ballots left uncounted.

Last week, Espaillat's campaign charged that the state election board had not allowed them to "adequately monitor" the counting of votes. 

In his new suit, Espaillat is calling for a recount, suggesting that many precincts were not counted properly and noting that absentee ballots are still arriving, according to reports. 

The New York City Board of Elections is expected to begin counting remaining absentee and affidavit ballots on Thursday. 

The primary fight was the toughest of Rangel's 42-year career in Congress. The veteran lawmaker who once served as chairman of the Ways and Means Committee was hit by an ethics scandal that led to him being stripped of much of his power and culminated in a rare House censure in 2010. 

He was also forced to run in a redrawn district that was now Hispanic-majority for the first time, boosting the prospects of his rival, the Dominican Republic-born Espaillat.