“This is the final nail in Hiram Monserrate’s coffin, and now we have buried him!” declared City Council member Daniel Dromm in East Elmhurst last night, before newly elected State Senator Jose Peralta addressed his supporters and most of the leaders of the city’s Democratic establishment.
It was a rocky brawl near the end of Jose Peralta’s two-to-one victory over ousted State Senator Hiram Monserrate for the special election in the 13th Senate District of Queens. Even though Peralta’s victory — with more than 65 percent of the vote — wasn’t even close, it was at times a rough fight in the race’s final hours.
Only Peralta had supporters out at the Roosevelt Avenue/Jackson Heights subway at rush hour. Supporters for Monserrate were scarce compared to Peralta, but a surprising ratio of those we found were female.
The corner of 78th Street and 37th Avenue was the main arguing arena, with Councilman Dromm — who is openly gay — greeting voters on one corner, while anti-gay slurs were being called out from the opposite side of the intersection.
Across the way, male Peralta supporters argued with female Monserrate supporters about the issue of domestic violence.
There were several women out who expressed full support for Monserrate. Wendy Haffee, who said she used to support Peralta, was supporting Monserrate because “He puts God first, and politics second,” and she said she thought what happened to Karla Giraldo was “exaggerated gossip.”
Haffee told us that Giraldo could be found down the street handing out Monserrate fliers, but we couldn’t find her. (It wouldn’t surprise us though, after her last-minute ad for her boyfriend.)
A group of young women chanted “Monserrate!” nearby, while a Muslim woman said that she supported Monserrate because he supported halal meat being served in school cafeterias. (And yes, she also didn’t like the idea of gay marriage.)
Jackson Heights resident Tony Martinez stated that he was vocally supporting Peralta because he was a vocal supporter of gay marriage, having voted three times for it in the State Assembly.
Gay marriage was very much on the minds of those stumping for both Peralta and Monserrate. In the end, though voters polled 44 to 44 for and against gay marriage in last week’s Sienna poll, Peralta still beat Monserrate by a margin of more than two to one.
Monserrate has indicated that he may either run for Peralta’s Assembly Seat, or challenge Peralta again in a Democratic primary for the full senate term in the fall.
Back at Peralta’s party, state Democratic chair Jay Jacobs declared, “I am delighted that sanity reigns in Queens tonight!” As Peralta made his way to the front of the crowd, speaker after speaker stressed what a victory the election results were for the rights of women and the LGBT community. Though Monserrate waged a gay offensive only in the Spanish language media, gay rights were championed openly in both Spanish and English at Peralta’s party.
In his victory speech, the former assemblyman seemed to know that he is heading towards a legislative body that is nearly dysfunctional. He also knows he’s heading towards tackling the biggest budget crisis in the state’s history.
But, as he ended, he noted, “We start fresh tomorrow. As someone once said, ‘Si se puede!'”