Wednesday, August 6, 2008


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BY N. CLARK JUDD (The Riverdale Press)
The three-way state Senate race between incumbent Efrain Gonzalez Jr., former state Sen. Pedro Espada Jr. and Richard Soto isn’t just good political theater, says Mr. Gonzalez’s colleague Eric Schneiderman (photo left) — it’s a Democratic Party priority.
Mr. Gonzalez and Mr. Espada are currently waging a white-hot primary battle in court, where members of Mr. Gonzalez’s camp are seeking to prove Mr. Espada lives in his Mamaroneck, N.Y. home, not in his $225,000 Bronx co-op, and looking to support the long-muttered rumor that Mr. Espada traded the fresh fruit and vegetable giveaways hosted by his Soundview Health Clinic for petition signatures.

Mr. Espada said one of his supporters told him if not for the fruits and vegetables and medical services he provides, “they never would have known that an elected official gave a damn.”
Mr. Gonzalez faces his share of trouble, as well. His nomination was controversial because, between the primary and the general elections, he’ll go to trial to face allegations that he routed taxpayer money through a Bronx nonprofit and into his own pocket. His son and spokesman, Carlos Gonzalez, has repeatedly said the charges are false and his father is confident he’ll beat them in court.

Mr. Schneiderman told the Benjamin Franklin Reform Democratic Club at its July 30 meeting that Mr. Gonzalez — who, he said, is a “choir boy” compared to Mr. Espada — will need support in upcoming primary.

At the July 30 Benjamin Franklin meeting, Mr. Schneiderman once again encouraged his fellow club members to put their weight behind Mr. Gonzalez to help him overcome Mr. Espada, who lost the Democratic primary for borough president in 2001. With Mr. Schneiderman among the Senate Democrats leading the charge, his party is on the march to take over the Legislature’s upper house this year. A victory for Mr. Espada — who sat with the Republicans when he was a state senator — might jeopardize those plans.

Their third competitor, Mr. Soto, is also running unopposed for the Republican nomination.
“Take care of business here in the Bronx, take care of Efrain,” Mr. Schneiderman said.
He dug out an old war story to prove his point — a snippet from 2000, when the Ben Franklin Club and Mr. Espada, part of one of the Bronx’s many political clans, briefly found themselves on the same side against the Ramirez family in legislative primaries. Democratic District Leader Bruce Feld, Mr. Schneiderman said, observed that Mr. Espada was challenging a candidate backed by then-Borough President Roberto Ramirez and said: “Sometimes the enemy of your enemy is still your enemy.”

Mr. Espada said he expects his current court battle to be resolved today, Thursday, Aug. 7.
This is part of the August 7, 2008 online edition of The Riverdale Press.Have an opinion on this matter? We'd like to hear from you. Click here
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