Who Will Challenge the Senate Defectors?

Ongoing fluidity notwithstanding, it seems safe to assume that once their heads stop spinning, the state (and maybe national) Democrats will make it a serious priority to make both Pedro Espada and Hiram Monserrate into former elected officials.

The senators, who cost the Democrats support of the State Senate by crossing the aisle to provide the 31st and 32nd votes to Republican leader Dean Skelos, come from overwhelmingly Democratic districts and will both, in theory, be highly vulnerable to party-backed primary challenges.

But, assuming Espada and Monserrate are still around next year–and that they haven't cut some sort of deal with the party by then to flip back–who will do the challenging?

Here, with the help of some smart readers, are a few speculative candidates.


Espada has a number of political committees, but none show how much campaign money he has on-hand for re-election.

Potential challengers to him are:

Hector Ramirez: He’s a county district leader who is Dominican, and an officer of the Bronx Democratic County Organization. When reached on his cell phone this morning, he said he wanted to take a wait-and-see approach, saying things could change a lot before next year's race.

Nelson Castro: He’s an assemblyman of Dominican descent and once worked as chief of staff to Assemblyman Adriano Espaillat of Manhattan. He would need a major influx of campaign cash. Currently, he’s $1,953.12 in debt. A message left at his Assembly office was not immediately returned.

Ramdes Perez: Puerto Rican businessman who has money already, but would have to move into the district by Election Day. Where he’s been running and doing a lot of work in the district already as part of the City Council race he ultimately withdrew from. A message left on his cell phone was not immediately returned. He's raised $156,945 for his Council race.

Yesina Polanco: She was the chief of staff to City Councilwoman Annabel Palma, and is running against City Councilwoman Maria Baez right now. She also worked as the chief of staff to Assemblyman Luis Diaz. She’s Puerto Rican, as is a majority of voters in that part of the Bronx. In a brief conversation this morning, Polanco said no matter the outcome of her election this year, she would not run. Still, her name is out there.

Jose Rivera: He’s an assemblyman and former Democratic county leader of the borough who was deposed in a coup last year. He’s well known in the community and in political circles, but may not have the political support (yet) to be the candidate. A spokesman for Rivera, Michael Nieves, said Rivera and Espada are "on the same side" and discounted the notion that siding with the Republicans in this leadership fight would warrant any kind of primary challenge.

The district:

Espada's district includes neighborhoods represnted by Assembly members Jose Rivera, and Nelson Castro, and council members Joel Rivera and Maria Baez. Politically, it’s also considered the front line in the civil war in the Bronx Democratic County Organization, between the new leader, Carl Heastie, and allies of the leader he overthrew, Jose Rivera. In this uncontrolled territory, Espada unseated a deeply troubled incumbent whose legal woes were, somehow, worse than Espada’s.

There’s 114,537 Democratic voters in the district, only 9,139 Republicans, and 22,0071 voters not registered in any party.


Monserrate has $137,790.27 on hand right now for reelection next year. Right now, there is still an effort by Democrats to woo Monserrate back. If that fails, a primary challenge could be expected. Mentioned as potential challengers are:

Jose Peralta: He’s an assemblyman with strong ties to labor. He’s had an on-again, off-again relationship with Monserrate that was, before the coup, in good standing. He’s been elected to district that largely overlaps with Monserrate's, and is one of the first people critics of Monserrate would turn to. Peralta also is well liked by the Queens Democratic County Organization. It’s unclear though if Peralta would take on the challenge. He does have $18,059.15 on hand already. A message left on his cell phone was not immediately returned.

Alfonso Quiroz: He’s an openly gay Latino who once worked for Mark Green’s mayoral campaign and for City Councilwoman Helen Sears. Most recently, he withdrew from the Council race in that area and is now backing Sears for reelection. He’s untested as a candidate, but generally has an unblemished record with the progressive community and labor unions. He didn't return an email request for comment.

John Sabini: He’s a former city councilman who is the last person to actually defeat Monserrate in an election. That was before Sabini was arrested for a DWI in Albany and lost the backing of the Queens County Democratic Organization to Monserrate in a rematch last year. Sabini took a job with the state instead of running. That DWI may pale in comparison to what Monserrate is accused of. But the district is changing demographically, and institutional types had gone on record last year saying that was one of the reasons they backed Monserrate over him. (He had an unusual counterargument). But still, Sabini is a known quantity in the area. A message left on his cell phone wasn’t immediately returned.

The district:

It’s sort of a no-man’s land, with ethnic rivalries and no strong, central power base. In that vacuum, Monserrate has built a formidable, self-sustaining political operation that propelled him to office, and his former chief of staff, Julissa Ferreras, to his Council seat (with some union help). While it’s also home base to the Queens County Democratic leader, Representative Joe Crowley, the county organization hasn’t been able to demonstrate any notable sway in the area.

There are 79,009 registered Democrats in the district, 12,227 registered Republicans, and 22,269 voters not registered with a political party.

UPDATE: In a brief interview, Sabini said, “I’m open to talking to people, but it’s not in my immediate plans.”

Quiroz emailed to say, “Currently I am focused on helping Council Member Helen Sears get re-elected.”

Also, there’s Francisco Moya. He’s a district leader who once worked as an aide to David Paterson when he was still in the State Senate. Moya said he’s “definitely” interested in looking at a possible race against Monserrate next year. He currently works for Cablevision, and lost a race for the City Council in that area to Julissa Ferraras, who worked for Monserrate. Moya’s showing wasn’t entirely impressive in that outing, but in a potential primary, he could get more institutional support from unions and the Democratic establishment.

Who Will Challenge the Senate Defectors?