New York's scandal-scarred Democratic Rep. Charles Rangel Tuesday won a narrow primary victory in the overwhelmingly Democrat 13th congressional district to assure a 23rd term, fending off state Sen. Adriano Espaillat for the second time in two years in a changing ward that includes Harlem and parts of the Bronx.
The 84-year-old "Lion of Harlem," who helped found the Congressional Black Caucus and is the third-most-senior member of the House, squeaked by Espaillat in a 2012 primary, besting him by fewer than 1,100 votes.
On Tuesday, with 99.6 percent of the votes counted, Rangel had 47.4 percent to Espaillat's 43.6 percent. Just 2,394 votes separated the two.
Rangel, who was censured
by the House in 2010 after an ethics scandal, had drawn harsh criticism last month when he dismissed the 59-year-old Espaillat as a candidate whose only accomplishment was to be a Dominican in a majority Latino district. Espaillat had aimed to be the first Dominican-American lawmaker in Congress.
Rangel had former President Bill Clinton and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo behind him, but party heavyweights President Barack Obama and New York Mayor Bill de Blasio were conspicuously neutral in the race, Newsmax’s John Gizzi noted.
Rangel has said this would likely be his last term in Congress, and he'll pack it in on his own terms, like the trio of long-serving congressmen exiting this term: Reps. John Dingell, D-Mich., George Miller, D-Calif., and Henry. Waxman, D-Calif.
When Rangel first came into office in 1971, his 13th District was the seat of black political power, according to The New York Times
– and one of the first things the new congressman did was help found the Congressional Black Caucus to give voice to minorities across the nation.
But after the 2010 census, Rangel's district was redrawn to pair Harlem and other neighborhoods of Upper Manhattan with a swath of the Bronx. The district's population now has a Hispanic majority.
Espaillat was trailing Rangel in one poll going into Tuesday's primary, and remained unknown to about a third of voters, The Times reported.
"I grew up with him," Martha Agosto, 39, told The Times about Rangel. "My father, who was a [building superintendent], always believed in the fight, and I've always known about him. I think he still has it in him; I think he still speaks for our community."
George Miller, 63, felt the same, telling the newspaper: "When I was a kid I used to pass out pamphlets for this guy. I like him, I think he's doing a pretty good job. I don't know about this other guy and I'm from here. I don't know what the other guy is worth; I know what Rangel is worth."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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