WASHINGTON HEIGHTS — Newly elected Congressman Adriano Espaillat came under fire during a town hall over the weekend from locals angry about his chosen state senate replacement, Marisol Alcantara's choice to join the breakaway Independent Democratic Conference (IDC).
Alcantara is one of nine Democrats — including Queens’ Jose Peralta and Brooklyn’s Jesse Hamilton — who have broken away from voting with their party to periodically cast their votes with Republicans, to the frustration of their Democratic constituency and former colleagues.
Espaillat, who organized the Town Hall to give locals an opportunity to address “the current state of affairs," went on the defensive when one attendee questioned Alcantara's alliance with the IDC and blasted Espaillat's support for such a "turncoat Democrat."
“You show me a vote… a position that she has taken thus far that warrants that, and I will change my position,” Espaillat fired back during the standing-room-only town hall at 1150 St. Nicholas Ave. Saturday. “In my opinion, she’s the most progressive member of the State Senate.”
Credit: Rick Savinon
But critics say Alcantara has had few opportunities to vote since being elected to replace Espaillat in the State Senate District 31 seat last year. They say their concerns are based on the history of the IDC, which since its inception in 2012 "has perpetuated Republican leadership of the Senate,” according to Alcantara's foes for the State Sen. elections, Robert Jackson and Micah Lasher.
Alcantara did not appear to have attended Espaillat's Saturday Town Hall, but during an earlier Town Hall Meeting Friday night that she organized about immigration, she said, when it comes to the IDC, she's not into the politics of “this person is in this party of that person.”
Alcantara received a total of almost $570,000 from IDC members and a committee set up by the IDC to help their candidates during her campaign, campaign finance records show.
Espaillat took more than $6,500 in campaign donations from IDC leader Jeffrey Klein when he decided to run again for his State Senate seat following his 2012 loss to Charles Rangel, according to the New York Daily News.
During his 2016 Congressional run, Espaillat paid $10,000 to the Hamilton Campaign Network, which was co-founded by John Emrick, Klein's former chief of staff, and Luis Manuel Miranda, founder of MirRam Group and father of "Hamilton" creator Lin-Manuel Miranda, according to the Daily News.
Espaillat didn’t reply to a request for comment.
The Saturday Town Hall — which residents said reached capacity with a "crowd around the block" — also addressed locals' concerns with immigration, President Donald Trump's refugee travel ban, changes to the affordable care act, and preserving Sanctuary Cities, which refuse to cooperate with federal immigration authorities over deportations.