A Democratic party leader conceded yesterday that it was too late to follow through on efforts to purge State Senator Pedro Espada Jr. from the party ranks in time to keep him out of the upcoming primary election, while Espada boasted that he had more than enough petitions to appear on the primary ballot despite the opposition of local and state leaders. Statewide leaders sought to purge him under the provisions of state election law, which empowers a judge to de-enroll a party member upon an application from his county committee chairman. The chairman can act if an enrolled local voter complains that the party member has acted or spoken contrary to the principles of the party. In Espada's case, the state leaders want to punish him for jumping from the Democratic to the Republican party, then back again in return for major concessions. They claim that he isn't qualified to be a Democrat because he has rejoined it for purely self-interested motives.
Espada contends that he's been targeted because Andrew Cuomo, the presumptive Democratic candidate for governor, is biased against Hispanics. He argues that Cuomo and other white Democrats object to someone with skin as dark as his having significant political power. He also insinuates that he's been targeted because he refuses to cut the budget deficit by cutting social programs, though it's hard to call that a racist agenda since it's been advanced most prominently by a black man, Gov. Paterson. Still, Espada and his ally, Sen. Ruben Diaz, insist that their dedication to social welfare at all costs makes them the true representatives of Democratic principles.
The rules for de-enrollment set deadlines relative to primary elections, and Democratic leaders acknowledged that they can't complete proceedings against Espada before the pre-primary deadline. That means that they can't stop him from running in the primary unless they mount a major challenge to his petition signatures. Whether the leadership will continue to press for Espada's de-enrollment is unclear, but it would have been interesting to see Democrats state definitively before a judge exactly what their party's principles are. It would be even more fun to see Republicans do the same thing, but nothing like that looks likely this year in New York. We'll have to settle for Democratic voters, in Espada's district and elsewhere, deciding on the party's principles the old-fashioned way -- by choosing their representatives regardless of principle.