On one level, it really isn’t about money for Espada. He speaks often about “the truth of June 8,” or having an impartial arbiter verify “the events of June 8”; last week Espada even screened a video montage of the coup vote for reporters, because of course the camera doesn’t lie. Espada’s calls for arbitration are, politically, a stalling tactic. But emotionally, existentially, Espada craves the validation that he really did outwit everyone and win, out in the open. That he really is an honorable man.
Lately Espada has been trumpeting a proposal to relinquish his presidential power after six months. The Dems won’t bite. “You can do a lot as president of the Senate for even ten minutes,” Liz Krueger says, explaining why she and other senators oppose the arrangement. “And I don’t trust Pedro Espada.”
Espada’s larger worry appears to be his newfound allies. The Senate Republicans are primarily white, suburban, and conservative, and have little in common with Espada politically or culturally. So far they’ve chosen to ignore his ethical lapses because they need Espada’s vote. But he’s concerned they will dump him when the pressure and the inducements grow too great. “There’s reach-out from the Democratic side indicating that the Republicans can get more,” Espada says, sounding nervous for the first time. “They’re offering power-sharing and material goods.” On the morning of June 18, Skelos met with upstate Democrat Darrel Aubertine and seemed to be willing to ditch Espada if Aubertine would agree to show up on the Senate floor and provide a quorum. Later that day—this time with Espada present—Skelos and the Republican leaders wouldn’t budge on Espada as president, and Aubertine backed out.
“I came into this with 30 people that gave me the historic vote,” Espada says, “and I just hope we can keep that coalition together. I just hope that my tenacity, my commitment, is matched by my allies in this fight. Otherwise, I could lose everything.” That’s the hardest thing to imagine, even after the wildest month Albany has ever seen: Espada is too wily and ruthless to be rendered completely powerless, even if he’s somehow stripped of a particular title.
His chief of staff, Andrew Yong, suddenly strides into the room, gesturing to Espada that they need to talk privately. The senator rises, grinning, and walks toward a massive wooden door just to the right of his desk. “Step into my office,” he says as he opens the door. It’s a private entrance to a balcony providing a spectacular view of the Senate chamber. So what if the grand room is empty? It’s all his. What won’t Pedro Espada Jr. do to keep it that way?