U.S. Rep. Charles Rangel avoided a prolonged fight for his 23rd term Thursday as his main opponent conceded and said he would not challenge the results of a tightly contested primary that divided their Harlem district along demographic lines.
State Sen. Adriano Espaillat's campaign said he called Rangel to commend the Democratic stalwart on the victory and his five decades in public service. The 84-year-old Rangel has said the next term will be his last. He's expected to easily win the general election in his heavily Democratic district.
Espaillat's concession call came a day after The Associated Press declared Rangel the winner in Tuesday's primary. Rangel led Espaillat 47.4 percent to 43.6 percent, a difference of fewer than 2,000 votes, with 100 percent of the vote counted in unofficial results.
While the official vote count won't begin until July 2, AP based its call on the city's disclosure Wednesday that the number of absentee and provisional ballots was not sufficient for Espaillat to make up the difference.
Espaillat spokeswoman Chelsea Connor said the candidate would not challenge the results, as he did in an even closer primary matchup with Rangel in 2012. Espaillat said he will now focus on running for re-election to the state Senate.
Rangel didn't wait for Espaillat's concession or official confirmation before declaring victory. He proclaimed himself the winner after an offbeat, nearly hour-long session of what he called "sweating it out" with supporters — a sort of political variety hour, complete with stream-of-consciousness remarks, Q-and-A with advisers about the latest vote totals and tributes from a parade of supporters.
He reiterated that position in a statement Wednesday, saying he was: "Fired up and ready to go!"