Redistricting has turned the 13th Senate district, which
now encompasses Jackson Heights, Corona and parts of
Elmhurst, into a majority-Latino district; Latinos make up
some 55 percent of the population.
"Clearly the senate district was created to ensure that a
Latino would be in a strong position to represent that
district," said Hiram Monserrate, City Council member for
the 21st District in Queens, part of which is encompassed by
the 13th Senate District.
Monserrate supports his chief of staff, Charles Castro,
in the race. Another Latino, Nestor Diaz, is also running.
Both men have backgrounds in law enforcement and are new to
politics. Both candidates argue that a majority Latino
district should have a Latino state senator.
They face a strong challenge from former City Council
member John Sabini.
Sabini is not Latino, but he is not worried about it.
Previously, he says, he represented an "80 percent minority
district and no one had any complaints."
He served on the City Council for 10 years before being
forced to retire because of term limits. While in office, he
helped install 10,000 new school seats for his constituents,
created the Jackson Heights Historic District, preserved
many local parks, and founded new programs for seniors.
He emphasizes his long political experience along with
his lifelong experience as a resident of the area he hopes
to represent. Neither Diaz nor Castro lives in the 13th
Senate district, which is currently permissible under the
Diaz has worked as an attorney for the FBI and as an
Assistant District Attorney. He currently practices law in
Queens and Manhattan. His background, he says, makes him
uniquely qualified to address the law enforcement and
immigration problems in his district, as well as terrorism
threats to the state.
Castro spent 17 years as a member of the New York Police
Department. In 2001, he became a legislative assistant for
Assemblyman Ivan Lafayette. He currently serves as City
Council Member Hiram Monseratte's Chief of Staff, focusing
on community services, quality health care, and a living
wage in New York City.
Voters in the 13th State Senate district see education as
a serious concern, according to the candidates. Safety and
health care are also key issues in the campaign.
Sabini hones in on three problems of the district's
educational system: overcrowding, teacher pay and
accountability. He supports the continued construction of
new schools and backs the teachers' efforts to be paid
fairly. He also expressed concern about the recent shift of
control of the schools from the state legislature to the
Mayor. He fears that the Mayor will operate the schools
without enough accountability.
Diaz also cites
overcrowded schools as the biggest educational problem in
his district. His district, which has the most overcrowded
schools in the city, needs at least two new high schools.
Castro says he would work to get funding for new schools
to ameliorate overcrowding which distracts students from
learning. Castro is also concerned about the district's
crime problems. He would seek more police for the district,
asserting on his campaign website that "historically
prostitution and drugs have been major issues. For an area
that is one of the busiest in businesses and consumer
traffic, police manpower has never been adequate."
Diaz says that the quality of life in his district has
declined since September 11 and says there has been a rise
in crime and public drinking. He would work with the police
to increase community policing.
Diaz would also focus on the health problems within his
district. He says that the tuberculosis rate in his district
is the highest in the country and no one is doing anything
about it. He proposes additional health care facilities as
well as funding for more health care workers. Diaz claims
that his district "does not get its fair share" of state
funding, and he wants to change that.
--posted August 12,2002
Queens voters all but elected the borough's first Hispanic state legislator yesterday, but two white males were winning in districts specifically drawn to benefit minority candidates.
Charles Castro claims he is a "decorated"
cop whose life "reads like a movie script" - including eight
medals during a "distinguished" 17-year career in the NYPD -
and is worthy of being elected to the state Senate. But
Castro fails to tell prospective voters he is a disgraced
cop whose controversial career ended with his firing.
(New York Post)