For the past several days, insiders have been whispering about the possibility of Councilman Ydanis Rodriguez jumping into the race to replace Sen. Adriano Espaillat, as Espaillat’s primary run against Rep. Charlie Rangel heats up. And yesterday afternoon, the councilman confirmed to City & State that he indeed considering announcing a run for Senate.
Until all of the sudden, he wasn’t.
“When it comes to the possibility of running for his seat, I’m considering that option,” Rodriguez said yesterday afternoon. “Everything is on the table, but my priority right now is to continue serving in the Council, especially at this moment, when we’re working to have a budge ready July 1, and to get Senator Espaillat to be elected to the Congressional seat.”
If Espaillat prevails in the June 26 primary against Rangel, there would be a fierce battle for his empty Senate seat. Assemblyman Guillermo Linares has already announced his intention to run, as has Democratic district leader Mark Levine. Rodriguez says he is unfazed by the possibility of running against either candidate.
“Having a number of people also announcing their interest in running for the Senate shows they also look the real possibility of Senator Espaillat to be elected to the Congress,” he said. “I have no doubt that Assemblyman Linares will choose to stay in the Assembly and to support Senator Espaillat; if he decides to do something else, that could be the end of his political career.”
But several hours later, Rodriguez called back to say he had a change of heart.
“Your first call was one of the few I got today,” he said. “Since I’m focusing on the race for Congress, I will not entertain the option, the choice of running for the Senate. I’ve had conversations and I’m strongly considering to support Mark Levine for that position.”
Rodriguez’s call came after City & State attempted to reach Mark Levine for comment about Rodriguez possibly entering the race. Rodriguez said he changed his tune after talking with Levine, among others.
“A lot of phone calls that I’ve been getting” Rodriguez said. “I’m fine in the Council, and I think right now we have a good candidate in Mark Levine, who can represent our community very well.”
Levine said that Rodriguez confirmed to him that he is “absolutely not running” for Espaillat’s seat.
“As far as I’m aware, we’re working closely, both on Senator Espaillat’s congressional, and I’m hopeful also on my State Senate race,” Levine said. Toward that end, Levine texted later in the evening to note his endorsement by the Three Parks Democratic Club (58 votes for Levine, 4 for Linares, 14 for no endorsement).
Reached by phone late Wednesday, Linares sounded nonplussed about Rodriguez jumping in the race.
“I believe that if he indicated to you that if he was planning to do that, then I take him at his word,” Linares said. “Whoever jumps in the race or jumps out, I have no control over that.”
Linares also repeated what he initially told Capital New York, that he was in the race “to the end,” regardless of whether Espaillat wins or not. Asked whether he had been approached by representatives from the Senate Republicans about caucusing with their conference should he win, Linares did not answer directly, instead reaffirming his progressive principles.
“I’ve been a Democrat all my life,” he said. “Should I be elected, I plan to invigorate the Democratic colleagues that I hope to join, to work in promoting a progressive agenda within the Senate.”
At first, northern Manhattan political insiders expressed shock that Rodriguez would jump in the race. Some speculated that the councilman could simply be trying to intimidate Linares into dropping out of the race, giving Levine a clear shot at succeeding Espaillat. Others noted that Rodriguez, who won his 2009 Council race handedly, has not run for at least three years, and could be rusty out on the campaign trail.
Plus, there was the recent scandal surrounding his former spokesman, David Segal, who was revealed to have served six months in a federal prison seven years ago for trying to burn down an Army recruitment center. Rodriguez fired Segal after that story ran in the New York Post, then hired him back a week later, only to re-fire him several hours later. Segal hinted that he may pursue legal action against his former boss – state law prohibits employers from discriminating against employees based on a past criminal record – but canceled a planned announcement earlier this week.
One insider speculated that Rodriguez’s lack of a communications director could have led to his inconsistent statements about running for Senate.
Assemblyman Linares called to clarify his intention to continue to caucus with the Democrats if he is elected to the state Senate.
“I’ve had no communication with anyone in the Republican side,” he said. “I’m a lifelong Democrat, and if I get elected in this campaign for the Senate I intend to continue being an integral part of the Democratic conference.”
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