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Queens Dems backing Peralta over Monserrate

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After calling on state Sen. Hiram Monserrate (D-East Elmhurst) to resign following his conviction on a misdemeanor for assaulting his girlfriend, the Queens Democratic Party issued a further rebuke by backing state Assemblyman Jose Peralta (D-Jackson Heights) to challenge him in 2010.

Peralta, 37, has served in the Assembly since 2002. He got his start in politics working as a community liaison for former Flushing Assemblyman Brian McLaughlin before joining the Central Labor Council.

He said he went to the Queens Dems about challenging Monserrate after hearing complaints from constituents for several months.

“People just kept on stopping me, saying, ‘What’s going on with this case? Our streets are still dirty and our schools are overpopulated and nothing has happened in the Senate because of the deadlock,’” Peralta said.

Monserrate gained notoriety in June when he joined state Sen. Pedro Espada (D-Bronx) in crossing the aisle to overturn the Democratic majority in the chamber. He returned to the fold shortly thereafter, but the Senate remained deadlocked for a month while the two sides refused to acknowledge each other’s sessions.

The Queens Dems’ decision was a loosely guarded secret in the days before a party dinner last Thursday.

Despite news reports indicating the party would back Peralta, Monserrate also showed up at the dinner and told NY1, “I look forward to taking my clear list of accomplishments to the public.”

Peralta said he had tried to contact Monserrate by phone twice in the days leading up to the announcement, but only reached the senator’s voicemail.

“I wasn’t going to leave any message like that,” he said Friday. “We didn’t have an opportunity to talk. Yesterday was actually the first chance. He came up to me, he said, ‘We need to talk.’ I said, ‘I agree, and let’s talk whenever you’re free.’”

Peralta refuted claims from people like state Sen. Ruben Diaz (D-Bronx) and Flushing Democratic District Leader Martha Flores-Vazquez that the efforts to oust Monserrate were racist. Previous legislators pressured to resign after being implicated or convicted of criminal behavior include McLaughlin, an Irish American, and former Brooklyn Democratic Party Chairman Clarence Norman, who is black.

Both of those politicians were convicted of felonies, however. Monserrate, who was convicted of misdemeanor reckless assault after being caught on tape dragging his injured girlfriend from his apartment building after a fight, is not legally compelled to step down.

The state Senate has formed a committee to investigate what options they have to censure Monserrate. Peralta doubts Monserrate will resign on his own.

“It’s his first term and already he has managed to isolate and sort of push aside many of his colleagues,” he said. “So far 55 of the 62 members don’t want to work with him. So how is he going to be an effective leader or an effective rep up in Albany?

Monserrate had raised $84,700 by the last fund-raising disclosure deadline, according to the state Board of Elections. Peralta, who had not yet formed a Senate campaign fund, had $57,550 in his Assembly fund.

Reach reporter Jeremy Walsh by e-mail at jewalsh@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 154.

Posted 6:28 pm, October 10, 2011
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