Has God turned against Pedro Espada, Jr., too? While the embattled State Senator from Bronxchester spent Saturday trying to win constituents' hearts and minds by giving away free lunch outside a church in Norwood, the church's pastor, Father George Stewart, was warning his flock to be aware of the rascally Espada. Besides the civil and criminal probes into Espada's management of his taxpayer-funded health clinics, he also once said he "despised the Catholic Church."
One parishioner, Sally McCrohan, told the Daily News that Father Stewart warned his flock in sermons all week that Espada is using the church to campaign for his September primary. "To me, he was out there trying to buy votes. Hopefully, come September, the truth will come out," McCrohan said. "Father Stewart's been saying it at all the Masses." Still, about 60 people lined up for the handouts. "I'd never refuse free food," said Agnes Shawn, 80. "I may not vote for him, but I'm happy to have the food."
Espada worked the crowd with warm handshakes and blessings, and denied that he's involved in any holy war. "There is no beef with anyone," he told The Post. "I don't know who Father Stewart is." Espada is holding a press conference today press conference this afternoon in front of the Bronx Board of Elections, and is expected to announce that he's got something like 9,000 petition signatures, far more than then 1,000 he needs, to get on the ballot for re-election. With those numbers, Espada doesn't need Stewart's blessing, but he does need the Democatic party bosses, who are trying to strip him of his party enrollment.