Espaillat takes back concession
- Last Updated: 2:29 AM, July 3, 2012
- Posted: 1:01 AM, July 3, 2012
In a stunning turnabout, state Sen. Adriano Espaillat yesterday withdrew his concession in his bitter congressional primary election against Rep. Charles Rangel — after claiming he was the victim of voter suppression.
Espaillat, watching Rangel’s lead shrink as votes are counted, even demanded he be declared the winner and Democratic nominee for Congress in the 13th District, according to court papers.
“We really don’t know who won this race,” Espaillat told The Post yesterday, even as his court papers portrayed him as the victor.
“Every single vote must be counted. We cannot have a Florida-type situation in New York state,” he said during a press conference outside a Washington Heights senior center before the court proceeding.
During a hearing in Manhattan state Supreme Court before Judge Donna Mills yesterday, Espaillat’s election lawyers announced they will file a new, updated suit today challenging the disputed vote after withdrawing the initial filing.
The new suit will reserve the right to ask for the results to be invalidated and call for a do-over election, sources said.
Espaillat gave a concession speech a week ago tonight when the preliminary tally had Rangel ahead by a comfortable 6 percentage points.
The next day, Rangel’s lead shrank to less than 3 points, and by the weekend, it was down to 2 points — a mere 802 votes — after all the machine ballots were recorded from Espaillat strongholds that were not initially reported by the Board of Elections.
There are more than 2,000 paper ballots yet to be counted.
Espaillat’s most serious accusation is that hundreds of voters, including many Spanish-speaking people in northern Manhattan, were turned away at the polls.
“We’re concerned about voter suppression in this election . . . It reeks with irregularities,” Espaillat said. “I have family members who were prime voters. They went to vote and were told their names were not on the list.”
Meanwhile, Espaillat said the elections board did a poor job notifying voters that the congressional primary — historically held in September — was being conducted in June this year.
“This was like a phantom election,” he said. “The Board of Elections is broken.”
The elections board defended its actions and described Espaillat’s legal attack as filled with “baseless” allegations.
“The board has acted in accordance with the law and its duly adopted procedures throughout this process,” board spokeswoman Valerie Vaszquez wrote in a statement.
Meanwhile, Rangel sent a letter to supporters urging them to help finance his legal effort to defend his victory in court — and took a shot at Espaillat for questioning the outcome.
“To my surprise, my opponent’s campaign pounced on me Friday, saying that I had somehow stolen their votes. I’m completely baffled by the situation and the way my opponent has been reacting,” Rangel said.
Manhattan Democratic Party Chairman Keith Wright, a Rangel ally, called Espaillat’s accusations of voter suppression “nonsense.”