Espaillat Challenger Accuses Foe's Backers of Intimidation Tactics

By Nigel Chiwaya on April 22, 2014 8:46am 

 Yolanda Garcia said supporters of Adriano Espaillat are trying to intimidate her to get her to drop out of the 13th Congressional District race.
Yolanda Garcia said supporters of Adriano Espaillat are trying to intimidate her to get her to drop out of the 13th Congressional District race.
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DNAinfo/Nigel Chiwaya

INWOOD — A late entrant to the crowded race for Rep. Charles Rangel's 13th Congressional District seat is accusing an opponent's supporters of using intimidation tactics to get her to drop out.

Community activist Yolanda Garcia said she filed a police report after people she believes are backers of state Sen. Adriano Espaillat twice banged on the door of her Bronx apartment this month during the early-morning hours.

“I was afraid,” Garcia said in Spanish Monday. “The knocking on the door was so strong and so were the insults.”

“Who the f---k is she to challenge Adriano?” the Espaillat supporters said, according to Garcia’s campaign manager Richard Soto.

But Garcia, 64, who jumped into the race earlier this month, joining Espaillat and the Rev. Mike Walrond in a contest to unseat Rangel, a 22-term incumbent, said she's not easily intimidated.

“I want to continue my campaign,” she said Monday, flanked by her supporters during a press conference outside Espaillat’s campaign headquarters at 210 Sherman Ave.

Soto said he doesn't have any evidence Espaillat is behind the harassment, but he said the candidate has a responsibility to denounce any such tactics.

"We're not saying that he sent people to harass her, but the people around him or those affiliated with him are doing this, and he should either condone or speak against it," Soto said.

In a statement, an Espaillat spokeswoman urged the police to look into Garcia’s report.

“This is a serious allegation that needs to be fully investigated by the police department to determine the veracity of it," the Espaillat spokeswoman said.

Police officials did not immediately respond to an inquiry about whether a police report was filed.

"Accusations like this play into a stereotype and only serve to distract campaigns from addressing the fundamental issues of affordable housing, smart economic development and immigration reform that should be the center of this election,” the statement added.

Garcia's camp has also accused Espaillat of trying to boot Garcia off the ballot by challenging the 6,000 signatures she and supporters collected to qualify for the race.

A Board of Elections official confirmed Monday that Garcia's signatures had been challenged, but said the challenge was not submitted by Espaillat. The challenge came from a Bronx woman named Petra Rodriguez, the BOE official said.

When reached by phone Monday, Rodriguez confirmed that she "filed some papers" with the Board of Elections, but did not specify as to what that paperwork was. When asked if she knew Espaillat, Rodriguez said: "Yes. I voted for him." 

When asked why she objected to Garcia's signatures, Rodriguez said she could not talk, as she was out of town and busy. When reporters called the number again, a woman answered, said she was Rodriguez's friend and that Rodriguez was not available, and then hung up.

An Espaillat spokeswoman did not immediately respond to questions about Rodriguez, but said in a statement that every candidate has had their signatures scrutinized in the race.

“The State Board of Elections requires candidates meet minimum standards to get on the ballot to ensure voters are protected," the spokeswoman said. "To our knowledge, every candidate in this election has had his or her petitions challenged." 

She added: "We will defend our petitions vigorously, the same way we have always done, and it is our expectation that every candidate will be able to show that they have enough valid signatures to qualify.”

Gustavo Solis contributed reporting.

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