By Victoria Cavaliere
NEW YORK (Reuters) - A New York state senator on Thursday formally conceded to longtime incumbent U.S. Representative Charles Rangel in a razor-close Democratic primary for their congressional district.
Adriano Espaillat called Rangel to offer his congratulations on his re-election, his campaign said in a statement. Rangel, who has served in Congress for more than 40 years, had declared victory in Tuesday's tightly contested race.
With absentee ballots still being counted, Rangel, one of the country's best-known black political leaders, held about an 1,800 vote lead over Espaillat, who was hoping to become the first Dominican-American member of Congress.
"While much has been written about the politics of race and ethnicity within this District, there is no question that our campaign focused on bringing the community together around our shared needs and struggles," Espaillat said in a statement.
Espaillat came within 1,000 votes of ousting Rangel, 84, in a 2012 primary after boundaries were redrawn in their district, which is comprised of upper Manhattan neighborhoods, including Harlem, and a slice of the Bronx.
The shift moved the electorate from majority black to majority Latino, and voters largely chose their candidate along ethnic lines, exit polls showed.
Rangel's hold on his Congressional seat is all but guaranteed in November's general election since there is no Republican challenger.
Rangel, known as the Lion of Harlem, has indicated that a 23rd term in Congress would be his last.
(Reporting by Victoria Cavaliere; Editing by Sandra Maler and Ellen Wulfhorst)