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Adriano Espaillat, Keith Wright lead Democratic primary to succeed Charles Rangel

Rep. Charles Rangel is pictured in a June

Rep. Charles Rangel is pictured in a June 24, 2014 file photo speaking to his supporters in East Harlem. Photo Credit: Craig Ruttle

The race to replace longtime Rep. Charles Rangel in upper Manhattan and the southwest Bronx was too close to call Tuesday night, with state Sen. Adriano Espaillat slightly ahead of Rangel’s preferred successor, Assemb. Keith Wright.

Wright showed no signs of conceding at his election night event in central Harlem, calling for probes into “campaign irregularities” and “voter suppression.”

He alluded to a past tight race between Espaillat and Rangel.

“Historically, these races have been down to the wires and down to paper ballots,” Wright said.

Espaillat at a celebration in Inwood declared victory in English and Spanish, saying the district “made history tonight.”

But he added that he agreed with Wright that every vote must be counted and “respected” to confirm the results.

Espaillat was leading Wright by fewer than 3 percentage points with 98 percent of precincts reporting, according to the New York State Board of Elections. The margin was about 300 votes, according to the New York City Board of Elections.

Nine candidates were vying for the Democratic nomination.

Espaillat, who would be the first Dominican-born congressman, had the backing of the growing Latino population in neighborhoods such as Washington Heights.

Wright, the son of a prominent state Supreme Court justice, represents Rangel’s home base of Harlem, historically the center of black political power.

Rangel will retire after 46 years in Congress, leaving behind a legacy of civil rights advocacy.

“Even though I’m leaving Congress, you can bet your life I’m not leaving politics,” he told reporters Tuesday.

A Wright victory would show the enduring clout of black voters in the 13th Congressional District, despite the waning influence of black Harlem amid gentrification and growing Dominican and African immigrant communities to the north.

An Espaillat win — after unsuccessful bids to unseat Rangel in 2012 and 2014 — would by contrast prove the political strength of the Latino vote, political experts said.

Reports of suppression of black and white voters emerged in the last days of the campaign, and a memo leaked by a pro-Espaillat political action committee said such acts would boost their candidate.

Espaillat’s campaign denounced the email, and the senator denied ties to the group.

The field of candidates included Clyde Williams, former political director of the Democratic National Committee, and Adam Clayton Powell IV, son of a civil rights leader.

Primaries also were being held in the district of outgoing Hudson Valley Republican Rep. Chris Gibson.

In the 19th congressional district, Democrat Zephyr Teachout and Republican John Faso will battle for an open upstate New York congressional seat this fall after winning their primary races.

Teachout defeated Will Yandik Tuesday night. Teachout became a progressive hero in 2014 by challenging Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo from the left and grabbing about a third of the primary vote. The Fordham University law professor moved into the district after that race.

Faso is a former state assemblyman who lost a race for governor in 2006 against Democrat Eliot Spitzer. Faso defeated first-time candidate Andrew Heaney Tuesday.

With AP

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