Members of Rep. Adriano Espaillat’s political inner circle – aka the Squadriano – have been lining up behind Angel Vasquez in his state Senate primary challenge to incumbent Robert Jackson. Now the Congress member’s behind-the-scenes support is becoming official, as Vasquez will announce Espaillat’s endorsement today, his campaign exclusively told City & State. Espaillat has been growing his influence in Upper Manhattan and the Bronx, mentoring and supporting a crop of primarily Dominican American candidates like himself. He helped George Alvarez take out Assembly Member José Rivera in the June primary, and – as City & State’s Rebecca Lewis reports today – is backing Miguelina Camilo in her state Senate campaign against incumbent Gustavo Rivera. Vasquez is a former teacher, and ex-political operative for the teachers union, and was also chief of staff to former Independent Democratic Conference state Sen. Marisol Alcántara, who Jackson unseated in 2018. Espaillat is eager to take out Jackson, who dared challenge him for his own state Senate seat in 2014. Demographics may be on Vasquez’s side, in the 67% Latino district, but Jackson has more money and the power of incumbency, with endorsements from major unions and progressive organizations.
Espaillat is a leader in the district, Vasquez told City & State, unlike Jackson who he accused of being “ineffective” and “not present” in the area. “We need active legislators, who want to serve the community … particularly in a time when the city is so unaffordable and people don’t feel safe,” he said. Jackson’s campaign fired back, listing his major supporters including State Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins and Bronx Democratic Party Chair Jamaal Bailey, as well as “virtually every group and union that has endorsed in this race,” Jackson campaign spokesperson Richard Fife said in an email, “because they know that we don’t need more go-along, boss controlled legislators and that Robert’s leadership helped pass increased funding and lower class sizes for our public schools, first in the nation gun control legislation, the Reproductive Health Act, historic tenant protections, the NY DREAM Act, the Farmworkers Fair Labor Act and so much more – all legislation his predecessors tried to pass and failed.”