Jose Peralta secured a decisive win over ousted former lawmaker Hiram Monserrate on Tuesday.
Peralta garnered 66 percent of the vote to claim the 13th State Senate District seat. Monserrate’s took 27 percent of the vote while Republican candidate Robert Beltrani, an administrative judge, received 7 percent.
“Tonight is the start of a new chapter,” state Senator-elect Peralta said to a crowd of supporters gathered at the Gran Rancho Jubilee restaurant in East Elmhurst. “An end to dysfunction, divisiveness, and disappointment.”
Meanwhile, a subdued Monserrate delivered his concession speech at a Jackson Heights restaurant. The former Corona lawmaker was fighting to regain control of his old seat after being expelled from the state Senate last month for manhandling his girlfriend — he was convicted of misdemeanor assault last year for dragging Karla Giraldo through the lobby of his apartment. During his speech, Monserrate congratulated his opponent on the win and declared the race a “battle of Goliath proportions against us.”
For the more than 50 supporters who had gathered at the restaurant, Tuesday marked the end of a bare bones campaign against Peralta. While supporters chanted “Bravo Hiram” and “Si Se Peude” (Yes, we can), Monserrate acknowledged that the logistics of facing off with a contender who had the support of the entire party machinery was exhausting.
“We took on the entire political establishment of the State of New York; every single labor union, hundreds and hundreds of thousands of dollars with an army of hard working average New Yorkers from the great borough of Queens,” he said. “It is indisputable that from the very beginning, this was a battle of Goliath proportions against us.”
Monserrate, who ran as an independent, said the entire community needed to move forward after the election.
“We ran against the Democratic party that I am a member of,” he said. “We are all Democrats. But this should not be an evening of name calling.”
Peralta’s victory marked the end of a brief but heated campaign, with mudslinging on both sides continuing until the polls closed.
An assemblyman until he was sworn in on Wednesday, Peralta began the day voting at the Renaissance Charter School in Jackson Heights. “This is a vote against dysfunction,” he said as he walked out of the school. “Hiram was the main actor who stopped Albany in last summer’s coup.”
An hour later, Monserrate followed with two supporters tailing him, but no family members. As he approached the school, a small crowd of Peralta supporters heckled the expelled lawmaker. Keeping his composure, Monserrate shrugged off his domestic violence conviction.
“You should never judge an individual by one act,” he said. “I have 25 years of public service, and made mistakes like anyone else.”
Voting after Monserrate, Projit M., a lawyer residing in Jackson Heights, gave the former senator a piece of his mind.
“It shows hubris and lack of remorse,” he said. “I am Bengali, and I have seen his anti-gay ads in our newspapers. That will cost him Jackson Heights.”
Projit also took Monserrate to task for promoting gay rights as a state Senate candidate, then voting it down. “He promised marriage equality,” he said. “When he voted no, I called his office for an explanation. They never responded to me.”
Across the district in Corona, a group of pro-Peralta churchgoers campaigned outside St. Leo’s Catholic church.
“I am Catholic and I support Peralta,” Francisco Moya said. “We must say with a resounding no to domestic abusers, and those who hold taxpayers hostage for personal gain.”
His older brother Edgar Moya pointed at the three Monserrate volunteers manning the block. “They are not from this district, they do not represent this church,” he said.
Two of the volunteers hailed from the Bronx, and one from Hollis. None provided their names, but they expressed support for Monserrate’s opposition to gay marriage.
In another hotly contested corner of the district, Lefrak City, volunteers for both sides were knocking on doors and pounding the sidewalks for votes.
“The Senate had no right to remove him,” said resident John Givens. “We the people put him in office and he had the nerve to shake the waters in Albany.”
Givens was outnumbered by Peralta supporters, who counted state Sen. Malcolm Smith (D-St. Albans) and Assemblyman Jeffrion Aubry (D-Corona) in their ranks.
“Monserrate only has a couple of clergy behind him,” said the Rev. Dr. Martin Bentley of the Antioch Baptist Church. “Nobody is forcing the clergy to perform gay marriages. This is the nonsense that put George W. Bush into office.”
Former Lefrak City resident Lilianna Zulunova, an Assembly candidate in Forest Hills, counted on her mother to bring out the vote. “Some 170 Russian-speaking voters showed up,” said Zulunova. “It shows they want change. My mother provided interpreting as a poll worker.”
As results were coming in, the crowd at Gran Rancho Jubilee filled up with a who’s who of the Democratic Party, cheering on Peralta, and condemning Monserrate.
“We have zero tolerance for domestic violence,” said Assemblyman Adriano Espaillat (D-Manhattan).
To his left, Councilman Danny Dromm (D-Jackson Heights), cheered. “We will not tolerate homophobia,” said Dromm. “This is the final nail in Hiram Monserrate’s coffin, and we are burying him!”
Across the district, the defeated Monserrate stood defiant until the end, refusing to rule out a future run for office.
“This is not the last of Hiram Monserrate,” he said.
Thanking his supporters and voters, Monserrate said they had run a grassroots race.
“We had a very large voter turnout. We have a strong base, despite all the negative attacks,” he said. “Had it not been for the women of in the community, we would not have been able to get this campaign off its feet,” he added, without a trace of irony.
Peralta was sworn in with unusual speed on Wednesday. So far, only two candidates, Bryan Pu-Folkes and Francisco Moya, have declared their intention to run for Peralta’s former Assembly seat.