Rangel lead widens in primary vote count

Rep. Charles Rangel's (D-N.Y.) lead over his Democratic primary challenger has widened, as New York election officials continue to count ballots from the contested primary.

Reports said Rangel was leading New York state Sen. Adriano Espaillat by 994 votes at end of counting on Friday, up from 802 votes when officials began tallying absentee and affidavit ballots on Thursday.

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The voting process is expected to continue through the weekend. The New York City Board of Elections must still sift through than 2000 ballots initially deemed invalid, with both campaigns able to challenge the counting of those votes. 

Espaillat’s campaign downplayed the boost for Rangel. 

“The tally will go up and the tally will go down. The most important thing is that we count every single vote in a transparent way. That's our singular focus as a campaign and that's what the voters deserve,” said Espaillat spokesman Ibrahim Khan, according to reports.

But Rangel campaign manager Moises Perez said the long-time lawmaker’s “lead, quite frankly, appears to be insurmountable.”

The Dominican-Republic born Espaillat’s campaign filed a lawsuit in New York courts last week alleging that many ballots were improperly deemed invalid and suggesting voter suppression in precincts with majority Latino voters.

Reports say that once the election board has completed counting votes, the court will need to certify the results.

Rangel, appeared to have won his primary contest on June 26, declaring victory and having Espaillat concede.

Since then, 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.

The primary fight has been 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.