Senate candidate Gustavo Rivera (Photo: James Fergusson)
Yesterday afternoon, I tagged along with Rivera and two of his volunteers, as they headed by car to New Capital Restaurant, a diner on West Kingsbrige Road for lunch.
Rivera was in good spirits. "Love it! Love it!" he chuckled sarcastically, pointing at a large, red "Vote for Espada" poster in the restaurant's window. (Rivera, as anyone who cares likely knows by now, is running against State Senator Pedro Espada, Jr., in what is one of the most watched races in the state. Today is Primary Day.)
Rivera had spent the morning greeting commuters, chatting to seniors at senior centers, and talking to parents outside local schools. "People recognize me and they're engergized," he said.
As the primary has edged closer, Espada has gone on the offensive, sending voters nasty - and often bizarre - pieces of campaign literature designed to hurt Rivera's candidacy. (A couple of flyers, given to us by local residents, appear below. One carries a picture of Rivera's face surrounded by flames, while the other pretty much accuses him of wanting to dispatch the elderly.)
Discussing them, Rivera, who tucked into a chicken and mushroom sandwich called "The Fordham," expressed both horror and amusement. (For the record, an Espada spokesman previously told us that "all of our mail has 'New Yorkers for Espada' printed." Neither of the fliers below carry that blurb.)
Rivera said he's more concerned by recent reports that someone (he wouldn't say Espada's campaign explicitly) has been trying to trick voters in Tracey Towers, and possibly eleswhere, into believing that they could vote by phone.
"These calls are a blatant attempt at confusing and misinforming the public and suppressing the vote," he said. "We're talking about tactics that are right out of the playbook of southern states... they're trying to disenfranchise the voters."
Earlier this month, Rivera sent a letter to the U.S. Department of Justice, requesting that they send federal election observers to the northwest Bronx on primary day to ensure a fair election. The request was denied, Chris Malone, the policy director for Rivera's campaign, told me last night. While no reason was given, the department may have considered it a state issue, not a federal one, Malone said.
Rivera said his campaign has also called local police precincts, to ask that they be especially vigilant on Primary Day. Rivera said a number of people working on his campaign have been threatened by Espada's supporters in recent weeks, and that things could get testy at polling stations.
At Tracy Towers, Malone said, campaign workers and Tracey residents supporting Rivera, have been getting the word out about the fake calls, although not without difficulty. Management refused to let campaign workers into the buildings yesterday, Malone said, while Espada's people, and Espada himself, were able to walk right in. (Malone suspects this "clear double-standard" has something to do with Espada's relationship with the landlord, and the real estate industry at large, which has bankrolled his campaign.)
According to his public schedule, Rivera will spend much of this morning campaigning with Councilman Oliver Koppell, as the two hit up polling stations and senior centers. This afternoon, Councilman Fernando Cabrera will join him for more of the same.
Espada will also visit local senior centers as well as subway stations, his campaign spokesman said.
Both these fliers were sent out in the last 10 days