Adriano Espaillat is a cagey vet of New York politics. The State Senator from Upper Manhattan didn't hesitate on Monday to describe his persona, "I'm a fighter."
It's the right spirit, since he's in the scrap of his life. Call it political pugilism.
The fight that everyone expected to be a phone-booth slugfest, came to a rapid conclusion last Tuesday, when Espaillat conceded the primary to political heavyweight Congressman Charles Rangel.
The unofficial finish came earlier than expected with midnight still in the distance. Espaillat's Cinderella run turned Roberto Duran when he said the political equivalent, "No mas."
Rangel's victory was as sweet as it was legendary. Back from the dead, Rangel sealed two more years on Capitol Hill.
Espaillat was on to another run for Albany.
Or so it seemed.
However, Espaillat has a few more rounds left. On Monday afternoon at his office, the Dominican-born Espaillat reminded a PIX 11 News crew, "When Muhammad knocked out Sonny Liston he shook up the world."
Ali also possessed two gloves and lightning speed.
Espaillat has to potentially rely on a judge and a manual recount that will move as slow as Friday traffic to the Hamptons.
As it stands, the tally is an 802-vote advantage for Rangel. Espaillat's campaign says they have a legitimate shot at a victory since there are more than 3,000 affidavit ballots. These are disputed votes that need to be resolved. Espaillat citing voter suppression as the primary reason.
Additionally there are 600 absentee ballots that need to be counted.
The challenger feels he has the numbers to turn his concession speech into one of victory.
The road to a victory will have to traverse challenging legal barriers. Espaillat is well aware of this, "No that's correct," he said before he adding, "but you know most importantly I think that every voter in the district, whether they voted for me or not deserve to have closure to this and they deserve to know that the system works for them. "
Nonetheless in the eyes of Espaillat, the election system is, "definitely broken."
There are thousands more out there according to the Espalliat campaign that agree.
Rafael Mato, a supporter of Espalliat, told PIX 11 News exclusively that says he had to "insist that he was registered to vote" when officials tried telling him his name wasn't on the list.
Ultimately, after a few minutes of back-and-forth haggling, officials found his name.
He wasn't alone.
Andres Alvarez told PIX 11 News that he had voting difficulties while searching for his name at his precinct in High Bridge, "I go over there and they couldn't find my name," said Alvarez, who then said he left, "because I am busy that day."
Allegations of voter suppression, controversial ballots, and now the legal involvement of Manhattan Supreme Court, suddenly makes Harlem the new Palm Beach County, "Ah yes," said Basil Smikle while chuckling, "We don't expect regularities like this to happen in the city of New York."
Smikle a Democratic Strategist and professor at Columbia University feels that even if Rangel wins, it's a victory that comes at a price, "They'll take this one. However it comes they'll take it, but I wonder whether or not they feel he has any more left in him after this election."
The Rangel camp opted not to issue a statement regarding the developments after contacted by PIX 11 News.
It remains to be seen. The delay caused by Espaillat's counsel late Monday only prolongs a final result.
It also may potentially cripple Espalliat's back-up plan, a return to the State Senate. The deadline to file is next Monday.
Political observers say it's Espaillat who may be in jeopardy of losing both races due to the prolonged fight.
Even as great as Ali was, he would always shock the world one fight at a time.
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