The New York Times looks at one of the Working Families Party’s top priorities this fall: defeating notorious anti-tenant State Senator Pedro Espada. On Friday, the WFP endorsed his challenger, Gustavo Rivera, a progressive community organizer who is putting together a grassroots coalition to take Espada on.
From the Times:
Espada, Under Investigation, Faces a Well-Financed Opponent
By SAM DOLNICK
July 16, 2010
Pedro Espada Jr., the State Senate majority leader, has already been accused by New York’s attorney general of using his network of health clinics for personal gain and is under investigation by federal prosecutors.
Now Mr. Espada faces a new problem: a well-financed political opposition with a history of defeating incumbents that is looking to unseat him in the Democratic primary in September.
The left-leaning Working Families Party, which has evolved into arguably the most powerful third party in the state, has decided to focus its considerable organizational resources on ousting Mr. Espada and electing a little-known candidate who is running his first race — Jose Gustavo Rivera, 34, a former aide to Senator Kirsten E. Gillibrand.
Still, despite the corruption charges swirling around Mr. Espada, he retains deep support in his low-income district in the northwestern Bronx and will be difficult to defeat.
To counter Mr. Espada’s advantages in name recognition and finances, the Working Families Party plans to raise money, knock on thousands of doors and recruit leaders of religious, tenants’ and civic groups.
“Pedro Espada represents everything that’s wrong with Albany,” said Dan Cantor, the party’s executive director. Defeating Mr. Espada in the September primary, Mr. Cantor said, “is our No. 1, No. 2 and No. 3 priority.”
The Working Families Party has a record of helping insurgents topple established incumbents. In 2008, it played a crucial role in State Senator Daniel L. Squadron’s victory against Martin E. Connor, who had been in office in for 30 years — since before Mr. Squadron was born. That campaign, Mr. Cantor said, will serve as a model for the party’s effort against Mr. Espada.
Vincent J. Montalbano, a veteran lobbyist and political consultant, said the Working Families Party’s support could prove decisive. “In local races, the candidate they get behind, I think, has a tremendous advantage,” Mr. Montalbano said. “I think it is the overwhelmingly main factor in making it a competitive race.”
Founded in 1998, the Working Families Party is a coalition of unions and liberal groups that rarely runs its own candidates. Instead, it endorses other parties’ candidates, almost always Democrats, and then sends its workers into the field.