Pedro Espada Blames Cuomo for Party Eviction Push

Ex-boxer Pedro Espada Jr. jabbed back yesterday at the push by state Democratic party officials to strip the much-investigated state senator of his party affiliation, and he aimed his toughest punches at state Democrat Number One, Andrew Cuomo.

"Every aspect of this is Cuomo," the Bronx battler told the News' Kenneth Lovett. "The fact that he has other stooges speaking for him, he's pulling the strings on this."

That actually seems like a fair analysis given Cuomo's multiple investigations of Espada's antics. The party eviction plan also clearly doesn't thrill Jeff Dinowitz, the Bronx assemblyman and party committee chairman who was tossed this hot political coal on the hottest day of the year.

"You know, some people have suggested that if you want to get rid of Espada, the way to do it is through the ballot box," a reluctant Dinowitz told Capitol Tonight's Liz Benjamin yesterday. Dinowitz is no Espada fan, but he clearly remembers the last time Bronx Dems tried to shed Espada from their ranks -- and lost.

That was back in 2002 when Espada was enjoying his first round as a state senator and allied himself with Joe Bruno, then boss of the Republican majority. Part of Bruno's bait was $1 million in pork barrel member spending, $745,000 of which Espada immediately tried to route to his own health clinics.

Back then, it was the Bronx Democratic party leading the charge to evict Espada, using its then top legal attack dog, attorney Stanley Schlein, to press its case. The case bounced around in the courts for two years before finally resulting in a ruling upholding Espada's right to remain a Dem if he so chose. These days, Schlein is more likely to be found working in Espada's corner, although he may choose to lie low to avoid offending party leader Cuomo.

As Dinowitz points out, however, the issue may be solved at the ballot box before it ever gets addressed in the courts: "There is a primary in September, right now there are four people circulating petitions. We don't know who the final cast of characters will be, but one thing we do know is that the primary will come long before this issue can be resolved through a hearing."


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