Monserrate Seeks to Set the Record Straight Before Campaign

Councilman Hiram Monserrate may have slightly overstated his support in his upcoming race to unseat his fellow Democrat, State Senator John Sabini.

During an interview last night on The Perez Notes, Monserrate, who also ran for the office in 2006, said, this time around, he may get the endorsement of the Queens County Democrats, as well as several other organizations.

“I also understand that this time, I have some support that I didn’t have two years ago,” Monserrate said, around the 7:30 mark. “Namely Assemblyman Peralta, who has publicly stated that he is prepared to support me. Several members, union players, particularly 1199 and the hotels trades also stated that they will support my election. These are very important support networks in politics that we count on, and I think that obviously they are another factor in this decision.”

But Patrick Gaspard, executive vice president of 1199 SEIU emailed me to say, “We haven’t made an endorsement yet in this race. We’re still weighing the candidacies. I think that Hiram is encouraged because we backed Senator Sabini in 2006, but have yet endorse in this cycle.”

Monserrate also spent a portion of his nearly hour long interview swatting away unflattering stories.

In an echo of the slush fund scandal at the City Council. Monserrate steered money to a local group whose legitimacy has come under scrutiny. Monserrate said Michael Bloomberg should have done a better job of vetting organizations that got money in the budget (around the 9:57 mark). “I don’t know how any organization that didn’t file its proper paperwork was given any money. That’s a question that really needs to be directed to the administration.”

As for his brief appearance once at a Republican fund-raiser, Monserrate said he was visiting a friend at the event. Then, taking a Bloomberg-esque approach, said (11:55), “I’m a Democrat–I can’t walk into a room of Republicans? That’s ridiculous. I should be able to walk anywhere that I legally can walk into in this city. To try to say that I’m working with the Republicans is just nonsense. I’ve been a very progressive Democrat for just about all my life.”

He added, “Again, it’s just desperation by certain members of the New York State Senate that live in my area that are concerned about primaries.”

On his relationship to Scientology, which is the foundation of a detoxification program for 9/11 rescue workers he supports, Monserrate, who is a Christian, said, “It’s beyond me how that was used. I’ve gotten this question several times at the New York Observer ad nauseam, the New York Post, Daily News, and many others. I think that, like I said, everyone should really just back off on this one.”

Monserrate went on the offensive when discussing congestion pricing, which he supported. Saying it was a way to reduce air pollution, Monserrate told Perez (17:45), “We have a responsibility to act. The state legislature did not act. Shame on them. We acted. Unlike a certain senator from my neighborhood who decided, instead of voting, he was going to boycott the meeting and not even participate. He didn’t even show up to vote. That’s unfortunate because leadership is about taking tough decisions even though at the moment it might not be a popular decision.”

UPDATE: A spokesman for Monserrate called to clarify that Monserrate said in the interview he thinks the mayor’s administration, not the mayor himself, should have vetted community groups.