By Karen Freifeld and Edith Honan
NEW YORK (Reuters) - New York State Senator Adriano Espaillat on Monday challenged the results of the Democratic primary he appeared to have lost to U.S. Representative Charles Rangel, whose lead has slimmed to 802 votes.
Rangel, who is 82 years old and has represented Harlem in the House of Representatives since 1971, declared victory following the June 26 Democratic primary.
But Espaillat, a Dominican-American with strong Latino support, has raised concerns about the results, saying his campaign has received numerous reports of eligible voters being turned away at the polls. New boundaries transformed the traditionally African-American district into one that is now heavily Hispanic.
The two sides appeared at a hearing at New York State Supreme Court.
"Our only goal is to make sure every single vote is counted," Espaillat spokesman Ibrahim Khan told reporters after the court appearance.
Moises Perez, Rangel's campaign manager, said the campaign is "confident the Board of Elections will do its job."
The unofficial count by the New York City Board of Elections has Rangel winning 18,075 votes out of 40,810 votes cast. Espaillat won 17,273 votes, and there were three other candidates. The board is set to count about 2,000 absentee votes on Thursday.
The winner of the primary will be virtually assured of winning the November general election to represent the district, a Democratic stronghold.
The race was the strongest challenge yet for Rangel, a 21-term U.S. congressman and once-towering figure in New York politics whose stature was diminished by an ethics scandal.
The House censured him in 2010 for ethics violations, including failing to pay some income taxes, and he stepped down as chairman of the powerful tax-writing House Ways and Means Committee.
(Editing by Greg McCune and Ciro Scotti)