First supporters of state Sen. Efrain Gonzalez Jr. told Liz Benjamin of the Daily News — and us, but more on that next week — that they think Bronx Democratic boss Jose Rivera threw their man under the bus in Tuesday's primaries.
Now someone's sent Liz an invite to a Rivera-sponsored bash for Nelson Castro and Pedro Espada Jr. this weekend.
The given rationale for Mr. Rivera's purported betrayal of Mr. Gonzalez, a county regular and a 20-year incumbent, is that giving Mr. Espada the state Senate seat would keep him out of next year's race for borough president. Rumor has it Mr. Rivera wants to clear the way for his son Joel, now City Council Majority Leader, though he denies his son has uttered so much as a peep about becoming beep.
As Benjamin points out, Mr. Espada can still run for BP, and if he loses, he can come right back to his legislative job.
It would also be quite a gamble, as Mayor Michael Bloomberg and several City Council members are making a lot of noise about extending term limits from eight years to 12. Mr. Rivera is not shy about his distaste for term limits, and if that bill goes through, Joel and the current BP, Adolfo Carrión Jr., would both keep their seats. Ousting a longtime loyal ally to prevent a race that might not happen anyway seems like a stretch for a wily pol like Jose Rivera.
Benjamin goes a step further to say that tucking Mr. Espada into the Democratic fold could ingratiate Mr. Rivera with Senate Democratic Minority Leader Malcolm Smith, who needs as many line-walking Democrats in that house as he can to take — and, he hopes, keep — a majority there.
Not so sure about that either. Mr. Gonzalez says he's currently the longest-serving member of the state Senate. He received the endorsement of Riverdale's Ben Franklin Club more or less exclusively because, indictment aside, he could be counted on to toe the Democratic party line. Now the Senate Dems will have to barter with Mr. Espada, who based his last decision about party loyalty on which side would give him more member-item money to spend. This year, which side Mr. Espada chooses may be predicated on the November election results. That'll be the last round in this fight for control of the state Senate.
If anything, ousting Mr. Gonzalez may make Mr. Smith's job more complicated.
The indictment itself does create a wild card. Mr. Gonzalez's trial — for allegedly taking $400,000-plus in taxpayer cash — was recently moved from October to next spring. It's possible Mr. Rivera wanted someone on his team who wasn't at risk of relocating his district office to Riker's Island.
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