Questions arise over Peralta seat vacancy

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The week after state Sen. Jose Peralta (D-Jackson Heights) won the special election to replace Hiram Monserrate in the Senate, demonstrators gathered in Manhattan to pressure Gov. David Paterson into calling an election to fill Peralta’s now-vacant state Assembly seat as a legal deadline loomed.

“No final decision has been made yet,” said a Paterson staffer Tuesday, speaking on condition of anonymity. “We’re still kind of weighing the options here.”

But a Democratic insider said the Peralta seat would remain vacant until November because Paterson would be pressured to call a special election to fill disgraced U.S. Rep. Eric Massa’s (D-Corning) seat at the same time.

“It actually was the toughest district held by a Democrat in the state,” the source said of Massa’s seat. “It’s expected that if there were a special election there, we’d lose it.”

A group of 40 people, led by the Rev. Andy Torres and Democratic District Leader Martha Flores-Vasquez, held up signs on the street near Paterson’s Manhattan office, pointing out he had called a special election for a vacant City Council seat in Brooklyn.

“The constituents of the 39th Assembly [District] are like orphans without representation in the state,” Torres said.

Jackson Heights resident Abuzafar Mahmood, former campaign manager for Council candidate Mujib Rahman, said he was not yet favoring a prospective candidate in the race, “But we are thinking plainly that we need that election,” he said. “Whoever comes, whoever it be elected, that’s not the vital question.”

The two announced Democratic candidates in Peralta’s district — Corona activist Francisco Moya and Jackson Heights attorney Bryan Pu-Folkes — were gearing up for the race, while Monserrate has not ruled out a run.

Moya, who has been endorsed by Queens County Democratic Party Chairman Joseph Crowley as well as Crowley’s congressional colleague, U.S. Rep. Nydia Velazquez (D-Ridgewood), said there were certain practical considerations that did not favor a special election.

“I think we have to look at the cost to have a special, which would be close to half a million dollars, and then that election would be in May and then you have to get prepared to run again a month later,” he said. “Either way, we’re prepared, we’re confident.”

Pu-Folkes said he favored a special election.

“I think the choice is clear,” he said. “This is a high-need, under-resourced district, and it’s really critical that the people’s voices are heard and represented as critical decisions on education, affordable housing and fiscal policy are being made.”

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

Updated 5:45 pm, October 10, 2011
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