Trying to Interview Espinal
August 24th, 2011
Having the support of Councilman Erik Dilan, Sen. Martin Dilan, Assemblyman Vito Lopez as well as the Democratic, Republican and Conservative lines heading into a special election would make just about anyone confident.† But it is not clear if it was confidence or concern that kept 54 Assembly District candidate Rafael Espinal from taking part in an interview with the Gotham Gazette for our story on the race.
Having the backing of those kind of power brokers might make it unnecessary to speak to the press if you assume the public will simply vote the Democratic line, whether they know your name or not.
I began conversations with Michael Olmeda, Espinal’s spokesman, early last week. After numerous back and forths it seemed that we were set to speak at 2:30 p.m. last Thursday, before the town hall meeting in Cypress Hills.
But on Wednesday Olmeda called to say the interview might not happen. I called Olmeda around 1 p.m. on Thursday to check in.
Olmeda told me the scheduled interview was off but said an interview was possible after the town hall–if I wasn’t going to ask questions, “that everyone else is asking.” I asked what questions those might be. Olmeda said Espinal was tired of answering questions about his Conservative Party endorsement and his beliefs. Espinal has come under fire for his opposition to same-sex marriage.
I told Olmeda that I did not intend to repeat other articles but wanted to talk about issues. Olmeda said that he and his candidate would walk out if I asked questions he didn’t like but said he would talk to the organizers of the town hall at the Cypress Hills Senior Center about getting us a space to use after the event had concluded.
I live Tweeted the event and after it concluded I approached Espinal–introduced myself and told him that we had an interview scheduled. He asked for a minute to speak to his family. I agreed and mingled with the crowd. Moments later I returned to where Espinal had been and he and his entourage were gone. I left the building to look for him and immediately called Olmeda. Olmeda, who sounded quite annoyed, told me, “I didn’t see you there.”†
To my knowledge I have never met Olmeda in person before. If we had I would have been particularly hard to miss–I was sitting second row and and am quite large–six foot 2 inches, heavier than I care to make public, with a head that could eclipse the sun.
I asked if we could set up an interview on Friday and Olmeda agreed. On Friday my calls to Olmeda were not returned. I left a message telling him the article would run without Espinal if we did not hear from them before the end of the day. My calls were not returned.
On Monday, I placed a call to Councilman Erik Dilan’s office hoping to speak to the councilman about the race–wanting someone to speak for Espinal.† After talking briefly to a woman who answered the phone I was handed off to my surprise to Espinal.
I reminded him that I had spent the previous week trying to speak to him and that we had an interview scheduled. He reminded me that he was at work and couldn’t speak there but asked for my number. Espinal has already come under fire for using Dilan staffers on his campaign without paying them.
He and the Councilman Dilan have yet to return my call.By David King on August 24, 2011, 3:30 pm
In category: Albany, Electoral Politics, Eye on Albany | 1 Comment »