During the recent Olympic trials, two young women tied for third in the 100-meter dash, and the only way a winner could be determined was with a runoff.
A runoff will not occur between Rep. Charles Rangel and his opponent, State Sen. Adriano Espaillat, for the Democratic primary for the 13th Congressional District, but a recount may be on the horizon.
Late last Tuesday evening, Rangel was declared the winner by the AP and the Board of Elections, edging Espaillat by more than 2,000 votes. Rangel supporters, assembled outside Sylvia’s restaurant, cheered the results.
Now those faithful followers may be back on edge as Espaillat has filed a formal challenge upon learning that all of the precincts and absentee and affidavit ballots had not been counted. (Affidavit ballots are those completed by voters whose names do not appear on the rolls.)
As a result of that count, the two contenders are now separated by 800 or so votes. Longtime Harlemites might be reminded of the race in 1970 when Rangel squeaked out a victory over Adam Clayton Powell Jr. by 150 votes.
On Monday, July 2, Espaillat and members of his election team took their complaint to court. A hearing was slated for the following Monday morning.
“The people of the 13th Congressional District must be assured that when they go to vote, the person they vote for–the system will allow for a fair election,” Espaillat told reporters. “And in fact, that those who got the most votes, legitimately, will represent them. I don’t think that is the case right now.”
In a later report, it was rumored that Espaillat may ask the court for a do-over. If such an event were to take place, would it include all the other candidates? A race between the two of them would definitely favor Rangel, since the other three candidates took more than 10 percent of the votes that would presumably be his.
In an email Monday morning, Rangel wrote, “By now, I’m sure you’ve heard that my race is completely not over. It’s been days since primary day, yet there are still votes to be counted.
“To my surprise,” he continued, “my opponent’s campaign team pounced on me on Friday, saying that I had somehow stolen their votes! I’m completely baffled by the situation and the way my opponent has been reacting.”
The dispute may boil down to a recount if the margin between them reaches half a percentage point. Even so, the counting of absentee and affidavit ballots will not happen until Thursday.
Both candidates and their constituents experienced some troubling moments at the polls, as far too many voters–among the few who knew the primary had been changed from September to June–were unaware of where their polling place was, given widespread redistricting.
No matter the outcome, it’s hard to believe either side will be satisfied, particularly if the margin becomes almost indistinguishable.
Predictable, too, is an increased, uneasy relationship between the Latino and African-American communities around the question of power and control.
Meanwhile, Rangel, 82, has already announced a need for more funds, perhaps anticipating a drawn-out fight in court.