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‘The Heartland of Unfitness’

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Last Tuesday’s special election should be the nail in the coffin for the political career of former state Sen. Hiram Monserrate’s political career. The embattled politician was convinced the people who elected him first to the state Assembly and later to the Senate had been disenfranchised by the decision of his fellow senators that he was unfit to hold office.

He was saying he might be a bum, but he was their bum. But Monserrate was wrong. The voters in his district, many of whom had supported him during his legal troubles, elected Assemblyman Jose Peralta. It was a sign the people in this district are ready to move on.

Even before Tuesday’s election, Monserrate said a defeat would not be the end of the line for him. “Quitting is not part of Hiram Monserrate’s makeup,” he said. “I don’t think anyone should have their entire life judged over one mistake.”

What Monserrate was arrested for was not a mistake. His girlfriend, Karla Giraldo, told hospital workers he had slashed her face with a broken glass in a moment of rage. She would later change her story, leading to Monserrate’s exoneration on the felony assault charges. He was convicted of recklessly assaulting

It is also unfortunate Monserrate chose to exploit the issue of homosexuality in his campaign. Monserrate criticized Peralta for his support for the legalization of gay marriage. The issue has divided Jackson Heights, which has a large, politically active gay and lesbian community and a religious Latino bloc morally opposed to homosexuality. At this point, the campaign took an ugly turn.

Days before the election, a panel of three judges on the Second Circuit Court of Appeals in Manhattan rejected Monserrate’s request to be restored to his position in the state Legislature.

His attorney, former NYCLU boss Norman Siegel, argued, “We have now a Legislature that can willy-nilly decide to expel someone.” But Barbara Underwood, the solicitor general in the state Division of Appeals and Opinions, responded that Monserrate was justly expelled “because of misconduct well within the heartland of unfitness.”

And that is where Monserrate, unwilling to take responsibility for his behavior, will reside.

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