Espaillat, Jackson Tout Signature Counts in Uptown Clash

State Senator Adriano Espaillat. (Photo: Ross Barkan)

State Senator Adriano Espaillat. (Photo: Ross Barkan)

State Senator Adriano Espaillat is fighting for his political life after losing a congressional race last month–and his top rival is hoping a superior number of petition signatures is enough to put him over the edge.

Robert Jackson, a former councilman, turned in 8,142 signatures to qualify for the ballot in the Democratic primary against Mr. Espaillat, well above the 1,000 required, according to his campaign. That total is about 2,000 more than Mr. Espaillat turned in, though the Espaillat camp collected signatures over a much shorter period of time.

Mr. Jackson is also touting the endorsement of the Jim Owles Liberal Democratic Club, a relatively well-known club based in a downtown sliver of the upper Manhattan-based district that also endorses citywide. Mr. Jackson also has several union endorsements that he is hoping will be enough to counter the labor-backed Working Families Party, who again endorsed Mr. Espaillat after falling behind him in his race against Congressman Charlie Rangel.

“The Espaillat campaign collected more than 6,000 signatures in under 10 days, and is proud to have the support of the Working Families Party, Senate Democratic Conference Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, 32BJ, and other progressive leaders. Senator Adriano Espaillat has been a champion on critical issues for this district like affordable housing and environmental protection – his record far outshines his opponents’,” said Jonathan Davis, a spokesman for Mr. Espaillat.

A third candidate, Luis Tejada, is also challenging Mr. Espaillat in the Democratic primary. Mr. Jackson, who represented a Harlem-based district in the council for 12 years, is Mr. Espaillat’s chief competition, however.

Mr. Jackson has been running for the seat since Mr. Espaillat was running for Congress. While Mr. Espaillat claimed he was focusing only on his congressional bid, he immediately declared his intentions to run for re-election after losing to Mr. Rangel in the June 24 primary. Over a ten day period, his supporters furiously gathered about six times the number of signatures required.

It appears likely both Mr. Jackson and Mr. Espaillat will make the ballot. Whether Mr. Jackson, who is not as prominent among the Dominican-American base that makes up district, can actually unseat Mr. Espaillat is not clear, at least according to uptown political observers. The primary will be held in September.

Mr. Jackson’s supporters, however, are confident.

“When he is in office, you get full time service from a full time legislator. As a school board president, he secured 16 billion dollars in new funding for New York City school children. He is a uniter, and we need his voice in the State Senate,” said Allen Roskoff, the president of the Jim Owles Club.