The electoral season is here and only a week is left before the New York State Senate primary elections. So far it's been a snoozefest with few truly contested offices which could mean that incumbents are doing an amazing job -- or not really (as spelled out in a recent Gotham Gazette report on the lack of truly contested races in the state and a report released yesterday by the city's Campaign Finance Board on how New York City's system of publicly financed campaigns "has not done enough to foster competitive races when incumbents seek re-election" - full report here).
As you might have noticed, I also live in one of the few Senate Districts that is considered to be in play. Hiram Monserrate, the first Latino to ever become a City Councilmember from Queens, is trying to unseat incumbent State Senator John D. Sabini in the 13th District, which would make him the first Latino to reach the State Senate from Queens if he emerges victorious.
Today, in a somewhat bizarre Spanish-language article in El Diario La Prensa New York State Senator Ruben Diaz, Sr. says that he offered his endorsement to Monserrate but Monserrate rejected it because, as Diaz put it, he had "a lot of homosexuals here."
Diaz goes on to say that this shows that Monserrate is more fearful losing gay voters than losing the evangelical vote (bullshit!). Still, Diaz maintains that he would prefer Monserrate to win over Sabini and is comfortable with staying off-line if his endorsement is going to do any damage to the Monserrate campaign (huh? He is talking to El Diario La Prensa's leading political reporter Gerson Borrero! Is that "staying off-line?" It's all very suspiciously reminicent of a Diaz "non-endorsement" endorsement of Fernando Ferrer when he was running in the last NYC mayoral race).
What does Monserrate have to say about it? Well, he says that there have been conversations and that, yes, there was an agreement for a 'no endorsement,' but that the doors are open and that he'd welcome Diaz's endorsement when and if it comes (FULL TRANSLATION OF THE ARTICLE BELOW).
Actually, last year, when Monserrate was mulling a challenge to Queens Congressmember Joseph Crowley (slated to become the leader of the Queens Democratic Party later this year) he did in fact welcome Diaz's support when everyone else turned his back on him and I, as an ardent Diaz critic, understood why: Disenfranchised LGBT immigrant voters in Queens don't go to the voting booths but 'newborn evangelical Latino Christians,' for the most part, do! (which is why Diaz' comment about fearing the gay vote in Queens is hogwash).
It still doesn't take away from the fact that as an NYC Councilmember, as a former NYPD cop and United States marine, Monserrate has consistently voted time after time on behalf of the LGBT community. He has spoken about (and supported) civil marriage for same-sex couples as well as transgender rights in the past. He has provided funding for HIV prevention services in the borough (unlike other previous representatives) - which is why I am backing him
He has also supported progressive LGBT organizations in the borough and was one of the first elected officials in Queens to provide funding to the Queens Pride House (when other political leaders such as Sabini and Councilmember Helen Sears were reluctant to do so).
On the issue of marriage for same-sex couples, everyone keeps talking about the importance of having state-wide legislative leaders in New York State (particularly minority leaders) that support legislative efforts to legally recognize relationships between same-sex couples. Monserrate could be a key player in gathering Latino and African-American political support for the issue.
There are rumors that Sabini's camp is urgently seeking district minority LGBT leaders or organizations to join them tomorrow at a press conference on LGBT issues. I'd be interested in who shows up and what the conference will be about.
As a Latino LGBT community leader living in the district, I understand where Monserrate is coming from, I support his candidacy, and believe that if Diaz is willing to offer and endorsement despite Hiram's active support for LGBT issues, why should he turn it away?
I just regret the homophobic State Senator Ruben Diaz, Sr.'s knack for inserting himself into political races at the last minute even if most other legislators consider him to be a joke as well as the fact that this all seems somewhat orchestrated by the Monserrate camp. But, if a press conference materializes, I'd still say it's a cheap ploy to call Monserrate on a potential Diaz endorsement when NONE of the people on Sabini's camp have participated in ANY previous demonstrations against Diaz. So, if any press conference materializes tomorrow challenging Monserrate on his LGBT record, I hope that reporters also ask about Bronx Borough President Adolfo Carrion's support for Diaz' anti-gay marriage demonstration outside the Bronx courts (and, yes, Carrion is endorsing Sabini).
El Diario La Prensa, September 6, 2006
BAJO FUEGO by Gersón Borrero
Rev. Ruben Diaz, Sr.: They fear gays more than evangelicals
The Reverend Ruben Diaz says: "They (the politicians) are more fearful of the gay vote than that of evangelicals. The declaration by the controversial State Senator is part of his explanation for the support he offered to Hiram Monserrate, in Senatorial District 13 of Queens, which was rejected. According to Diaz the current elected official said to him, "I have a great number of homosexuals here."
Monserrate, for his part, confirms to EL DIARIO/LA PRENSA that "yes we did speak about it and we both decided if we that it would be better if he did not support me." Diaz affirms that he prefers a Monserrate victory over his colleague John D. Sabini, the incumbent leader. "Sure, if I am going to do him any harm with the homosexuals with my endorsement, I won’t do it,” says Diaz whose opposition to marriage between gays is as well-known as his opposition to abortion and his support to the teaching of the Bible in public schools.
Diaz does not offer any evidence that there might be a larger number of gays in the disputed District than in others and attributes the skittishness to Monserrate’s fears. The Senator from the 32nd District in the Bronx remembers that "[Fernando] Ferrer also did not want my endorsement for the same reason” [when he was a New York City mayoral candidate].
Monserrate, who prefers to minimize any distractions that might divert any focus on his efforts to become first Latino to represent Queens in the New York Senate says that "if Ruben Diaz wants to unite himself with us today we will welcome him."
Diaz rejected an invite to join rivals Fernando Ferrer and Mark Green in reaffirming their endorsement of [Monserrate’s] candidacy. The politician says that he never will forget what Green did to Freddie [Ferrer] and to his community in 2001 and therefore he does not want to create the perception that there are any ties with the candidate for the General Attorney’s seat in which he is battling Andrew Cuomo.
>nt>Ferrer, for his part, says that if "if Andrew joined me in supporting to Hiram, it would love to stand in his same corner," making clear that what matters is a Monserrate win and not the in-fighting. The vote by the electorate of the 13th District - among them evangelicals and gays - will decide who will represent them in Albany. Amen.