BY JAMES FARRELL
Hiram Monserrate, the former state senator from Queens who was booted from office after an assault conviction, made his return to the political world official last Wednesday with the opening of his new campaign office at 100-13 Astoria Boulevard in East Elmhurst.
The controversial figure is running for district leader in Corona and Elmhurst, an unpaid, volunteer position that traditionally doesn’t hold much power. It’s one of the few offices Monserrate can legally run for with a felony charge on his record, according to previously published reports.
Monserrate, a former Marine and NYPD officer, was initially expelled from office in 2009 after being convicted of assaulting his girlfriend, Karla Giraldo, by slashing her face with a shard of glass, according to previously published reports. At the time, he was sentenced to three years’ probation, but he would ultimately serve two years in jail in 2012 for fraud, after it was revealed that he had used government funds for a state Senate bid while serving as a city councilmember in 2006.
But Monserrate’s campaign is based on the notion that voters will remember his tenure as senator, not as a controversial headline.
“He believes that he had a stellar record as a public servant. He believes that he served that community well,” said Mike Nieves, Monserrate’s campaign advisor. “He’s back, and he felt that he can contribute and that’s why he’s running.”
Nieves said that Monserrate’s record shows that he played a positive role in the community while in office, even in spite of the multiple convictions. He said that while in the city council, for instance, Monserrate was pivotal in passing a pay-to-pray parking bill, which banned metered parking on Sundays. He also played a big role in getting former Mayor Bloomberg to pass Executive Order 41, which protected immigrants from having to reveal their immigration status while seeking city services, said Nieves.
“Once they [the voters] realize and remember that he’s the person that was responsible for that, I think they’ll have ample reason to vote him back in,” Nieves said.
Other local politicians aren’t so sure.
Assemblyman Francisco Moya (D-Jackson Heights) does not cover the area where Monsarrate would be serving if elected. However he once overlapped with Monserrate’s Senate district. He said that pursuing political power is no way to atone for past mistakes.
“Why didn’t he volunteer at a domestic violence center and talk about his issues so this wouldn’t happen again?” Moya offered. “That’s redemption, when you actually go out there and try to atone.”
Moya added that he thinks that the people of his district are not interested in voting for someone guided by ambition, and that choosing to run for office again instead of seeking to make up for past wrongs shows that little has changed.
“This is purely his own political ambition and his ego,” Moya said.
Councilmember Julissa Ferreras-Copeland (D-Jackson Heights) was less direct in her response.
“I trust that the voters of this district will make the right decision and elect someone with integrity,” she said in a statement.
State Sen. José Peralta (D-East Elmhurst), who serves Monserrate’s old district, declined to comment for the Queens Tribune, but in previously published reports he has been critical of Monserrate’s decision to run.
“It is clear that the community does not want him back, and the proof is that the community members rejected him, not only once, but twice,” Peralta said in those reports, referencing Monserrate’s failed election attempts after being ousted from the Senate.
Reach out to James Farrell at (718) 357-7200 x 127, firstname.lastname@example.org or @farrellj329.