After years of failed attempts, disgraced politician Hiram Monserrate has successfully mounted a political comeback. Last week, the former state Senator—who was convicted for brutally assaulting his girlfriend in 2010, and later went to prison for stealing city funds—won his race for the Democratic district leader post in East Elmhurst.
The controversial candidate received just under 2,000 votes in his bid for the small-time office, which historically involves rubber-stamping the party's pick for political boss. But already, there are signs that Monserrate is eyeing a more significant role in local politics. On Monday morning, fellow state Senate alum and current City Councilmember Ruben Diaz Sr. deemed Monserrate the "strongest Latino Political Leader in Queens County" and a future "power-broker."
Hey, so remember how last week Hiram Monserrate won his bid to become a district leader in Queens? Well this morning, Councilman Ruben Diaz Sr. is predicting "Monserrate has become the strongest Latino Political Leader in Queens County,"
Ima leave this here: pic.twitter.com/sI6EMPpjUw
— Gloria Pazmino (@GloriaPazmino) September 17, 2018
"With all his 'Mischief’s' and political 'bumps in the road', last Thursday Hiram Monserrate’s political club came out and won (5) five district leadership positions," wrote Diaz Sr., in his weekly email newsletter, "What You Should Know."
As a reminder, those mischiefs include a misdemeanor assault conviction for dragging his then-girlfriend, Karla Giraldo, by the hair through a lobby. During the altercation, Giraldo's face was cut with a broken glass, leaving a gash that required 40 stitches to close.
He escaped jail that time around, despite video footage that clearly shows the assault. The Queens Democrat was eventually sent to prison for two years, after he was busted diverting $100,000 in funds earmarked for a local nonprofit toward his 2012 campaign. As of last year, he'd paid only a fraction of the money owed in restitution to the Manhattan US Attorney's Office, and still owed $71,785.
"I believe in democracy, and people are entitled to the government that they want to elect," said Daniel R. Alonso, who served as Special Counsel to the New York State Senate in its investigation of Monserrate. "But I certainly wouldn't vote for him, knowing what I know about his background, in a million years."
While Monserrate has long claimed that he's publicly addressed the charges and fully cooperated with the investigation, Alonso tells Gothamist that's "nonsense."
"The public has never heard his version of the story, other than in self serving sound bytes," he added. "That's his right not to [testify], but it was very cynical of him in the Select Committee's investigation not to lift a finger to cooperate in the slightest, even though he made it seem like that's what he was doing."
Ruben Diaz Sr. was at the sentencing to support Monserrate, and even approached the Special Counsel to ask if he planned on going after another Democratic state Senator, Kevin Parker, who was arrested after a confrontation with a New York Post reporter, recalls Alonso.
In his email blast on Monday morning, Diaz Sr. noted that Monserrate had "become so powerful with those (5) district leaders he has the capability to become a power broker, deciding who will be the next chairman of the The Queens Democrats."
Within hours of the email going out, district leaders voted overwhelmingly to re-elect Rep. Joe Crowley as Queens Party Chair, despite his shocking loss in the congressional primary to Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Monserrate was reportedly one of just four dissenters in this voice vote, which took place during a private meeting in an Elmhurst diner.
Neither Monserrate nor Diaz Sr. could be reached for comment.