As expected, the Queens County Democratic Organization endorsed Hiram Monserrate for State Senate over incumbent John Sabini earlier today. It’s a major coup for Monserrate, who has been steadily building a base of support in the Jackson Heights-Elmhurst district independent of the county organization.
Most people I’ve spoken with since the announcement cited Sabini’s vulnerabilities (DUI arrest, a narrow reelection in 2006, and low profile outside campaign season) as a reason for the decision. But the other major explanation has to do with demographics: the district has become steadily less white since Sabini was first elected, and more Latino and Asian.
So, what does this say about the Queens County Democratic Organization, arguably the city’s most influential Democratic machine? Is the organization weak for not being able to protect (an admittedly vulnerable) incumbent against a strong challenger? Or is the county organization simply smart for going with a likely winner?
The answers I’ve gotten, perhaps not shockingly, have tended to break down according to whether or not the respondent expects to benefit from the demographic shifts.
One official I spoke with expressed concern that other white lawmakers will be abandoned by their county organizations.
But those who view themselves as the Monserrates of their communities seem encouraged.
Albert Baldeo, a candidate for State Senate who is Indo-Guyanese, finds the development encouraging. He’s running in a Democratic Senate primary against City Councilman Joe Addabbo, who is Italian, for the honor of challenging Republican incumbent Serph Maltese.
Baldeo told me, “I think it sends the message they are willing to include minorities and broaden the base of the party.”
He then added, “Well, basically, [Monserrate] is like a new blood in the party. And similarly, I am new blood. Councilman Joe Addabbo has been part of the process for a long time, similar to Senator John Sabini.”