It is one of those long-running public cross-fires which seems suited to serve the political purposes of both combatants, playing to their different constituencies. And now -- at least for a fleeting moment -- the phenom of former Suffolk Executive Steve Levy blasting Sen. Adriano Espaillat from Washington Heights, and Espaillat blasting back, makes a comeback.
Now a contributor to the Long Island Business News, Levy -- whose departure from electoral politics in 2011 remains the mystery-laden subject of an unusual settlement with the Suffolk district attorney -- cited what sounded like a flip statement Espaillat made regarding Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s most recent legislative program. Wrote Levy:
“One of the most far left officials I ever met was Sen. Adriano Espaillat, who said of Cuomo’s leftward shift, “I think a little bit more, and he would be to the left of Che Guevara.”
"Now, most rational New Yorkers would think that this was a criticism, but actually, Espaillat was praising Cuomo for the shift, claiming, “I think he’s found his home again; he’s come back home.”
"Yes, once you go to the left of Che Guevara you are at home with Espaillat’s radical wing of Albany Democrats."
Now Espaillat has issued a response directed at Levy as follows:
“While my remarks were obviously made in good fun, I don’t think there’s anything particularly ‘radical’ about passing meaningful campaign finance reform to reduce the influence of special interests in Albany, raising the minimum wage to assist working families, ensuring that women earn equal pay for equal work, or protecting the rights of our society’s most vulnerable.
“What’s radical, are the race-baiting and anti-immigrant positions you held as Suffolk County Executive -- policies that contributed to a hostile environment against Latino immigrants and earned the scrutiny of the U.S. Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division.
“And what’s radical, is the idea that New Yorkers working a full-time job should require public assistance to feed their families, or the fact that our state hasn’t experienced a minimum-wage increase since 2009. That’s why I stand with Gov. Cuomo and the overwhelming majority of New Yorkers that support this proposal.
“I’ll continue to work with Gov. Cuomo to make sure New York State is a place where communities are bought together, not pitted against each other as you so often attempted to do.”