Rep. Charles Rangel's lead over his Democratic primary challenger continued to widen Friday as the New York City Board of Elections concluded its two-day count of absentee and affidavit ballots, part of a larger vote tallying process that is expected to continue into the weekend.
Rangel was leading state Sen. Adriano Espaillat by 994 votes at the end of the count Friday, up from 945 at the start of the day and 802 when the count started Thursday.
And Rangel pulled ahead by another five votes once elections board employees and campaign representatives began sorting through more than 2,000 ballots the board deemed invalid, a process that is expected to continue Saturday. Both the Rangel and Espaillat camps now have the opportunity to challenge the board's determination on any of those ballots.
At the end of the day Friday, Rangel had 18,934 votes and Espaillat had 17,940. If the final vote tally ends with a lead of fewer than 214 votes, a hand recount would be triggered automatically.
Earlier in the day, Rangel's advantage had climbed to at least 1,158 votes, and the longtime congressman's campaign manager Moises Perez said the lead appeared to be insurmountable.
But Espaillat spokesman Ibrahim Khan said, "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."
Also Friday, the city Board of Elections filed a notice of appeal and was granted an automatic stay of a Bronx State Supreme Court ruling preventing the board from making the election results official, according to Board of Elections lawyer Steven Richman. On Thursday, Justice John Carter had ruled that the city board could certify the tally for Rangel and Espaillat but couldn't transmit the result to the state elections board until he approved it.
Espaillat's attorney, Leo Glickman, charged in court that Espaillat voters had been improperly turned away from the polls.
But Rangel attorney Arthur Greig said Espaillat was just trying to slow the process down.
The parties are due back in court Wednesday, one day before Espaillat must declare his candidacy if he plans to give up on the House race and run for re-election to his state Senate seat.
The congressional primary appeared decided last week on election night, with Rangel seemingly holding a sizable lead. But the vote margin shrank, leading some to wonder if Espaillat had conceded too soon.
On Friday, the Rangel campaign sent two attorneys, two political consultants, campaign manager Perez and nearly a dozen volunteers to monitor the counting. The Espaillat campaign sent roughly 15 volunteer observers to the elections board's lower Manhattan office. No lawyers officially monitored the counting but did come to check in occasionally, Khan said.
Ballots from three of 10 state Assembly districts contained in the 13th Congressional District, which covers parts of Manhattan and the Bronx, were counted on Friday. The other seven were counted on Thursday.
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