Veteran Harlem Congressman Charlie Rangel (D-N.Y.) declared victory Tuesday night in his hard-fought Democratic primary and a likely 23rd term in Congress.
“We have fought this fight. We have won new friends. We have brought our community together,” Rangel told cheering supporters at his election night party in East Harlem.
Rangel was facing a rematch against State Sen. Adriano Espaillat, who came within about 1,000 votes of defeating Rangel in 2012. But despite shifting demographics and much of the Democratic establishment rallying behind Espaillat, Rangel managed to win about 47% of the vote to Espaillat’s 44%, according to The Associated Press, with more than 99.5% of precincts reporting. (The AP has not yet called the race for Rangel.)
The race often featured bitter attacks between Rangel and Espaillat. In one of their debates, Rangel accused the Dominican-born Espaillat of running on his Latino heritage instead of substance, and Espaillat returned the favour by reminding voters of Rangel’s 2010 ethics censure.
In his victory speech, Rangel didn’t seem especially inclined to praise Espaillat.
“I should congratulate Adriano for bringing the best he had to work with,” Rangel said.
For their part, Rangel’s raucous crowd of supporters, partially filling a basement gymnasium,
spent the night shouting their approval as Rangel’s lead grew and grew. At one point, a small group of rappers performed the Rangel campaign’s hip-hop song cheering Rangel’s lengthy tenure in office.
“Congressman Rangel has stood the test of time,” said New York City Public Advocate Tish James from the stage, “and he will remain the Lion of Lenox Avenue.”