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Monday, September 13, 2010

Scenes From Espada's Campaign

Sen. Pedro Espada's campaign headquarters at 1910 Webster Ave. 
The campaign office of Sen. Pedro Espada, Jr., is in a dingy building on Webster Avenue, wedged between a bodega and a tiny tax preparer's office. The red awning outside shows a picture of Espada and advertises the building as a "community assistance office."

The office itself is on the third floor, up a dimly lit stairwell. This afternoon, it looked like your typical campaign headquarters, with volunteers propped up at makeshift desks working the phones and district maps papering most of the walls. And though polls don't open until tomorrow morning, victory had already been declared:  a banner with the word CONGRATULATIONS was on display.

One campaign staffer, who first identified himself as "Landon," told me that they weren't allowing reporters inside the campaign office today, or to trail volunteers as they canvassed the neighborhood. 

"We did that once, and it turned out unfavorably," he said. I then asked him to spell his name for me, and he admitted that he wasn't really Landon; his name is actually Chad Dais, he said, and he is in charge of "media control," and "making sure everyone does their jobs."

Haile Rivera, a community activist who has been working for Espada since early summer and is now handling press inquiries for the campaign, was pacing the office on his cell phone, wearing a "Vote for Espada," t-shirt. He said he and the other campaign workers were spending the day making phone calls to registered voters. 

Tomorrow, he said Espada would be "hitting the senior centers," visiting local businesses and trying to visit all 45 polling sites in the District.

"It should be fun," Rivera said. 

The campaign has also elicited the help of five local car services and will be giving out "vouchers" for a free ride to the polls, he said.

Outside the building, a group of young men were walking into the office wearing buttons with Espada's face on them -- they were there looking for job working the campaign, they said. Another middle-aged man was there for the same reason.

"I'm looking to find some work," he said, declining to give me his name. He'd worked for Espada once before, helping set up tents for a street fair, and it paid well -- $100-$150 a day. He showed me pictures from his cell phone that he'd taken with the Senator that day. In them, Espada is smiling and giving the camera his trademark thumbs-up. 

"Everyone says bad things about this guy," the man said. "But they're all crooks, aren't they? They all do the same things."

Meanwhile, Espada's district Senate office on E. Fordham Road was closed for the day, according to the security officer at the front desk. All was quiet at his other district office on Bainbridge Road, where two bored-looking receptionists were the only ones around.

"It's been dead today," one woman said. 


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