Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
February 13, 2016

New York: Charlie Rangel Vote Drama Deepens

Updated 6:38 p.m. | Longtime Rep. Charlie Rangel probably received more votes than any other candidate in June’s contentious and close 13th district Democratic primary in New York. But that doesn’t mean the 21-term Member has won renomination to his seat just yet.

The ongoing drama continued today as the New York City Board of Elections counted votes in the Harlem and Bronx-based district. With more ballots left to count, Rangel’s lead widened to more than 1,000 votes, according to a local reporter.

But the most interesting news came from a column in today’s New York Daily News. Columnist Juan Gonzalez said there were some apparently unusual meetings held between a BOE official and Rangel aides.

“The News has learned that on Saturday morning, June 23, Timothy Gay, the deputy chief clerk for Manhattan’s Board of Elections — and the person currently supervising the count of the votes in the Manhattan part of the 13th Congressional District — held a meeting in Harlem with key Rangel campaign operatives, and with district leaders supporting Rangel.

Asked about the meeting, Gay said he attended at the request of state Assemblyman Keith Wright, the Manhattan Democratic chairman, to provide ‘district leaders with lists of their Democratic inspectors assigned to their specific districts’ and to ‘discuss election matters in general.’

So why did candidate Rangel’s campaign staffers attend, while no Democratic district leaders who supported Espaillat were invited?

Gay said he was ‘fairly certain’ that only Democratic district leaders were in the room, and he hastened to add that he attended “on my own free time.”

Traditionally, district leaders are the ones who get to name the poll workers that the board will hire for their districts on Election Day.

Yet a half-dozen district leaders who supported Espaillat told me this week that the Board of Elections rejected virtually all the people they recommended as poll workers.”

A spokesman for the Rangel campaign referred questions to Assemblyman Keith Wright (D), who is a strong supporter of the Congressman and is also co-chairman of the state Democratic Party.

“There was no collusion. There was nothing subversive,” Wright said, grousing that Gonzalez never called him to get his side of the story. “What we did with the head of the Board of Elections is what we do every Election Day.”

Other Rangel allies called any allegations or insinuations of misconduct bunk. “The accusations are bullshit,” one operative supporting Rangel said. “There’s less here than meets the eye.”

And Big Apple Democrats familiar with the BOE told Roll Call they suspect fumbling rather than malice. “Our board of elections is not the most incompetent in New York State, but they aspire to that,” said a New York City Democratic insider unaffiliated in the primary.

Still, the added intrigue could play into an ongoing court case about the election. The next hearing in that case, before the a Bronx state Supreme Court judge, is scheduled for Wednesday.

But it looks more and more like this is going to be an election Rangel won. “It’s all over, but the singing and the dancing,” Wright said.

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