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Rangel Primary Lead Grows During First Day Of Paper Ballot Count

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Congressman Charles Rangel widened his Democratic primary lead Thursday as the Board of Elections began its count of more than 2,000 absentee and affidavit ballots in the contested race, but his opponent, State Senator Adriano Espaillat, scored a win in court. NY1's Grace Rauh filed the following report.

Voters in the 13th congressional district went to the polls in Manhattan and the Bronx more than a week ago, but votes in the Democratic primary race for Congressman Charles Rangel's seat were still being counted Thursday.

New numbers showed Rangel's margin growing to a lead of 945 votes over his chief rival, state Senator Adriano Espaillat.

"It seems that both sides are cooperating with each other and with the board and we are making good progress," said Board of Elections counsel Steven Richman.

It could take a couple of days to count all of the more than 2,000 absentee and affidavit ballots in the race. BOE officials began opening them in Greenwich Village on Thursday morning.

Espaillat is challenging the results of the election in court. In court papers, he alleges that some Latino voters were turned away from the polls and that bilingual election workers were replaced with ones who only speak English.

His campaign wants the court to order a new primary election if it determines that voter suppression did indeed take place and undermined the outcome of the race.

A state court judge has intervened and the BOE is prohibited from unilaterally sending its results up to the state board to be officially counted.

"All of these issues are arising because of the problems that existed in the conduction of this election and all those things have to be resolved before we have a final result," said Espaillat campaign spokesman Ibrahim Khan.

Both sides will be back in court next Wednesday. It will be a critical moment for Espaillat. If he is going to run for his state Senate seat, he needs to file his petitions by midnight the next day.

The deadline may force Espaillat to decide between running for re-election and pursuing his congressional bid.

On Thursday, Khan deflected questions about the State Senate race.

"We are dead tired from this election. Believe me, the last thing we are thinking about is another election right now," said Khan.

That other election, though, is right around the corner. So one way or another, Espaillat and his aides are going to have to be thinking about it very, very soon.

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