NEW YORK (CBS 2) — Embattled Sen. Pedro Espada has been accused by an opponent of using strong-arm tactics to knock him off the ballot.

He charges that Espada sent intimidating letters and subpoenas to his supporters.

Tina Ritter was at home in her Bronx apartment Wednesday night when an unusual visitor came to her door.

“He’s really tall, like well over 6 feet. Heavy guy, intimidating, like big presence and like dressed kind of sketchy. He was wearing a satin cheesy looking red suit. He looked like a pimp. It was weird,” the 19-year-old told CBS 2’s Marcia Kramer.

The man worked for Espada and he wanted to serve a subpoena on Tina’s mom, who collected signatures to help Espada opponent Gustavo Rivera get on the ballot. Her mom wasn’t home. Tina said she was scared.

“I wouldn’t want to have to go through it again,” she said.

The Rivera campaign charged Thursday that Sen. Espada is intimidating his supporters with subpoenas and letters as part of a campaign to get him knocked off the ballot.

“People are saying, ‘I want to sign a petition. I want to help somebody get on the ballot.’ Next thing you know they’re getting letters; they’re getting subpoenas; they’re getting harassed. It’s a complete outrage,” Rivera lawyer Steven Russo said.

For Espada, it’s a case of election math. Rivera got 6,300 signatures. He needs 1,000 “good ones” to get on the ballot. Espada wants them invalidated, so he sent letters with the notation “notice of legal information warning” to Rivera supporters in the hope of discrediting them. Kramer spoke to one of them.

The woman who got the letter from Sen. Espada didn’t want to go on camera. She said she was angry, terrified and intimidated.

Kramer tried to ask Sen. Espada about the allegation:

Kramer: “The campaign of Gustavo Rivera says that your campaign is intimidating people who sign his petitions. Your reaction?”

Espada: “We’re here today to talk about real jobs. We don’t want to deal with political issues.”

Kramer persisted as he fled.

Kramer: “Are you intimidating voters?”

Espada: “Thank you.”

Team Rivera wants an investigation. A spokesman for the attorney general said they’ll review the issue if charges are filed.

Other Espada aides refused to comment and his campaign manager did not return a request for comment.

More From CBS New York

Download Weather App

Watch & Listen LIVE