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Peralta defeats Monserrate

So long, Hiram.

After an increasingly bitter special election race, the embattled former state senator who was expelled from his office by the Senate was defeated in a landslide victory for Assemblyman Jose Peralta (D-Jackson Heights).

With 95 percent of the ballots counted, Peralta had taken 66 percent of the votes, Monserrate trailed with 27 percent and Republican candidate Robert Beltrani took in 7 percent, the city Board of Elections said. Total votes added up to nearly 15,000, three times the 4,800 votes cast in the special election Julissa Ferreras won to replace Monserrate in the City Council in 2009 and double the turnout last month in the special election for the northeast Queen assembly seat.

“Our nightmare is over. A new day has begun,” Peralta said in his acceptance speech. “We finally have our community back—our honor, our dignity, our verguenza.”

Monserrate conceded with a pledge not to disappear from the political scene.

“This was a battle of Goliath against David, but we have our dignity and our pride and we continue to move forward,” he told supporters at Natives Restaurant in Jackson Heights.

Monserrate also wished Peralta well.

“He is the best thing for our community,” Monserrate said. “I will not, however, at this time rule out any other future political races or ambitions.”

Crowds were enthusiastic in the early morning. Peralta said he was behind 50 people in line at his polling place, the Renaissance School in Jackson Heights. But by midday, the turnout had slowed somewhat.

Richard Yamaguchi, poll coordinator at IS 145 in Jackson Heights, said the volume of people was “pretty good” for a special election. Veronica Harris-Owens, the coordinator at PS 127, called the turnout at her facility “very light.” Edgar Moya, the coordinator at PS 19, across from Monserrate’s campaign headquarters in Corona, said he expected 500 voters by the end of the day.

“So far it’s regular,” he said at 11:20 a.m. Tuesday.

Monserrate’s Senate career was troubled even before he took the oath. On Dec. 19, 2008, a month after he was elected, Monserrate was arrested and charged with assault after he drove his girlfriend to a hospital with severe lacerations to her face. Monserrate was acquitted of intentionally slashing the woman’s face, but he was convicted of misdemeanor assault for recklessly injuring her as he dragged her out of his Jackson Heights apartment building.

Voters willing to share their views seemed to favor Peralta.

“To me, it’s sort of a toss-up between which is worse, [Monserrate’s] conviction for beating up his girlfriend or his vote on gay marriage,” said Benjamin Hett, 44, of Jackson Heights. Monserrate was one of five Queens state senators to vote against same-sex marriage in December as he aligned himself with a bloc of Latino clergymen who opposed the movement.

Irene Arfer, 79, of Jackson Heights said Monserrate’s move to join the Republicans last spring in an Albany coup attempt was what cost him her vote.

“Of course, I read a little bit about Peralta, but it’s really an anti-Monserrate thing,” she said. “I can’t understand anybody that would vote for Monserrate.”

For Vanessa Agard-Jones, 30, a lesbian living in East Elmhurst, the choice was based on Monserrate’s opposition to same-sex marriage, although she also cited the domestic incident.

“The relationship between a person who is violent against his domestic partner and the kind of decisions he makes as a politician, I think, is questionable,” she said.

Monserrate had his supporters, however.

Lauriano Tavera, 74, of Corona, said Monserrate has been a boon to the community.

“He helps people. You need something, he will write a letter for you. He’s a very nice guy,” Taverea said. “Everybody makes mistakes, everybody. That’s why he needs a chance.”

Monserrate has the option of running for Peralta’s soon-to-be-vacant Assembly seat. If he does, he will face Corona civic leader Francisco Moya and Jackson Heights lawyer Bryan Pu-Folkes. No date had been set for a special election for that seat by press time Tuesday.

Reach reporter Jeremy Walsh by e-mail at or by phone at 718-260-4564.

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