Standing outside of Pedro Espada's district office on Bainbridge Avenue, a political outpost among rows of medical offices, State Senator Ruben Diaz Sr. offered a prediction for the upcoming primaries on Sept. 14.
“Pedro's going to win. I'm going to win. And we're going to come back stronger, faster and better,” said Diaz, who remains the only elected official to have endorsed Espada. “You know, like the $60 Million Man, you remember the TV show?”
Well, not really. But point taken. In fact, several people in Espada's camp have expressed this feeling over the past few days. It's clear they feel – despite all the negative press, the investigations, the law suits, the confrontations with hecklers and protesters, the hundreds of thousands being spent to defeat him – that Espada is in a good position to be re-elected for another two-year term.
And why wouldn't they?
- With all the institutional and political endorsements going to challenger Gustavo Rivera, Espada is able to paint himself as the underdog, despite having an enormous campaign war chest bankrolled mostly by the real estate industry.
- His refusal to debate his two challengers is looking increasingly like a shrewd political move. During a debate on BronxTalk on Monday night, which Espada didn't attend, candidate Dan Padernacht continually attacked Rivera for his lack of community involvement and for playing dirty politics in trying to get him to drop out of the race. While Rivera focused his criticisms on the incumbent, Padernacht didn't mention Espada once, except to say he worked to get him kicked off the ballot two years ago for residency issues. Padernacht maintains he's not being encouraged or aided by Espada (and there's really no concrete evidence to support those rumors), but regardless, it's clear his presence is hurting Rivera and helping Espada. (Earlier today, Dan Levitan of the Working Families Party, which is campaigning on behalf of Rivera, said they felt it was clear Padernacht's only goal was to smear Rivera on Espada's behalf and that he probably wouldn't attend tomorrow's debate at Fordham Evangelical Lutheran Church if Espada doesn't. We haven't heard back from Rivera's campaign staff to confirm whether he would attend or not.)
- While Rivera and Padernacht are out campaigning and trying to get their name out to voters, Espada is out giving away school supplies, produce and vans. Everyone already knows who he is – for good or bad. He's also using his status as a working senator to hold press conferences about hot-button issues like immigration and marching for civil rights.Never underestimate the power of incumbency.
Espada may be the most demonized candidate in New York, but he knows how to win elections.
Update: About the signs, Espada spokesman Franck Laboy said he couldn't comment.We'll look into it.