5:32 pm Jul. 2, 20121
In a courtroom packed with onlookers anticipating the next twist in the tightening congressional race between Charlie Rangel and Adriano Espaillat, an attorney for Espaillat told Justice Donna Mills this afternoon that the campaign would withdraw its current slate of complaints about Tuesday's primary and file a broader petition tomorrow.
On Tuesday, Rangel had celebrated what looked like a commanding primary victory, based on the early tallies from the Associated Press. But the preliminary results failed to include a few dozen pro-Espaillat precincts, which subsequently narrowed the margin to just 802 votes, of more than 40,000 that were cast, according to the Board of Elections' most recent tally.
On Friday, the Espaillat campaign requested and received a hearing in state supreme court in Manhattan. But Marty Connor, an attorney for Espaillat, told the court today that Friday's petition failed to include a challenge under section 16-102 of the election law, which the campaign would add to a new complaint that will be filed tomorrow.
Challenges under Section 16-102 must be filed within 10 days of a primary election, according to the statute. The new challenge could allow campaign to request a new primary election, if the court determined there was fraud or sufficient irregularities.
"That doesn't mean we're doing that, it just keeps our legal options open," said Ibrahim Khan, a spokesman for Espaillat.
(The third section of the statute reads: "The court may direct reassembling of any convention or the holding of a new primary election, or caucus where it finds there has been such fraud or irregularity as to render impossible a determination as to who rightfully was nominated or elected.")
The entire proceeding lasted just a few minutes, with Justice Mills agreeing to the request and telling the courtroom "that's it," as onlookers tried to ascertain exactly what happened. Attorneys for Rangel and the Board of Elections were present at the hearing, as was candidate Craig Schley who received a small fraction of the votes in the primary contest. Two other candidates, Clyde Williams and Joyce Johnson, were also named as co-defendants, but did not have counsel present.
Outside the courtroom, spectators spilled past a pen of television cameras, where Rangel's campaign manager, Moises Perez, said the congressman "feels very good" about how the voting process was conducted.
Two supporters of Espaillat told reporters they had witnessed problems at the polling locations.
"It was a fraud by Rangel, he manipulated the books," said Espana Aristy, who said she was at Muscoda School at 204th Street and Broadway in Manhattan. "They were asking for IDs, and they were not speaking Spanish there in the tables."
Ruben Dario Vargas, who was representing the Espaillat campaign at eight polling places, said voters were given affidavits that went uncounted. Vargas said he had not yet been deposed by the campaign, but that he would like to be.
I asked Khan why Espaillat had initially conceded, if there were so many known problems at the polling sites.
"At that time, you guys had us losing by 20 points," he said.
CORRECTION: This story originally stated that the Muscoda School is in the Bronx. It is in northern Manhattan.
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