BY JON CRONIN
The reintegration of the Independent Democratic Caucus (IDC) into the mainline Democratic Party is still up in the air, and while the state legislature is in flux, some contenders are preparing for a 2018 election fight.
Jessica Ramos, 32, a former communications aide at the mayor’s office, is considering a bid against state Sen. Jose Peralta (D-East Elmhurst), who switched to the IDC—which caucuses with the Republican Party—after running as a Democrat in the 2016 election.
She admits, “At this point, I’m only considering.” The idea of running had been stewing in her mind for some time, but Ramos knew that if she intended to run, she would have to leave her position at the mayor’s office as the director of Latino Media. On Dec. 1, she did just that.
“I’m focusing on having conversations with my neighbors [and] getting a feel for problems across the district,” she said of her potential bid. “A lot of my neighbors feel betrayed. Jose was the second Latino elected official in Queens.”
As the daughter of Colombian immigrants, Ramos said that she felt a personal connection to the state senator.
“I had looked up to him for a long time,” she said. “His joining the IDC was a real betrayal. I feel duped.”
Peralta told the New York Post that he welcomed a challenger.
Ramos, who grew up in Astoria and Elmhurst, said that her nascent ideas of public service began with her parents, who are both political activists. Her father presided over a Colombian nonprofit in Jackson Heights near 83rd Street and Roosevelt Avenue.
During her high school years, her father was hit by a car, and the incident led to his lawyer’s being impressed with the young Ramos’ demeanor when she happened to answer the family’s home phone. He hired her and she worked for him for several years.
“I saw people from all walks of life come in,” Ramos said.
While there, she noted that she learned empathy for clients who sought help with labor law and immigration or who told her that they were not given a hard hat or protective harness on job sites.
“That’s when the seed was planted in my head and in my heart for labor rights,” Ramos noted.
After college, Ramos took a job with SEU Local 371 workers union and, while there, worked on the BuildUpNYC initiative. She later worked for 32BJ workers union and served on Community Board 3 for three years before obtaining her position at City Hall.
During her three-year tenure at City Hall, Ramos helped to spearhead the rollout of the mental health program ThriveNYC.
Today, she is a wife and mother of two children, who are 4 and 6 years of age and attend PS 69 in Jackson Heights. She cited her children as a “huge reason” for considering a run for office.
Ramos supports the nonprofit Campaign for Fiscal Equity, which has pointed out that the state owes $2 billion to New York City public schools. She said that PS 69 is owed $1.8 million.
“Just think of all the tools and resources that they could buy,” Ramos said.
Ramos is also searching for rent reform and pays a preferential rate at her Jackson Heights apartment.
“I’m a renter. I’m still paying student loans,” she said.
She said that she is lucky to have a good landlord, but added that she didn’t know what she would do should the landlord choose to sell or go to market rate.
“Working families have that challenge,” she said.
Regarding whether she would receive the endorsement of the Queens Democratic party, she said that she has “certainly had conversations” with them.
“I feel like this is my next step in public service,” she said, while adding that she still has a few months to make her final decision.