Rep. Velázquez, the author, rallying for Moya for Council (photo: @ydanis)
Elections send messages.
You don't have to look any farther than the victory of Donald Trump to see that electing a racist, misogynistic demagogue helps to normalize abhorrent behaviors in the eyes of some Americans. That may be why, as the Southern Poverty Law Center reports, our country saw 1,094 bias incidents in the first 34 days after the November election.
If the president advocates for violence against opponents and unabashedly sexualizes and demeans women, then how can we effectively combat these dangerous practices?
The same can be said for our local elections. While there is far less media coverage of who runs for our local city and state offices, the implications are arguably just as great. Your local City Council member or state senator is often your most important local advocate. They work to bring resources to your district and manage problems that arise -- and they host park cleanups, sponsors holiday toy giveaways, and hand out merit certificates at your child's local school.
In fact, for many of our youngest New Yorkers, these most local elected officials are the first and most enduring images of a politician that they will have in their lives.
That's why I refuse to stand by and watch as corrupt former official Hiram Monserrate plots his reentry into New York politics with a run for the 21st City Council District in Queens.
For those who don't know, Hiram Monserrate is a former Council member and state senator who was ejected from the Legislature for slashing his fiancée in the face and, to cover his actions, drove her over an hour to the hospital avoiding Elmhurst Hospital only blocks away. Additionally, in 2012 Monserrate was sentenced in federal prison for stealing tens of thousands of dollars in public funds.
He has a history of violent outbursts and altercations that should immediately disqualify him from office. If that isn't enough, he also helped orchestrate the State Senate coup that handed power over to Republicans and doomed countless pieces of truly progressive legislation from becoming law, from the Dream Act to enshrining the protections of Roe v. Wade into New York law.
Thankfully, there is another choice in this election: State Assembly Member Francisco Moya.
I am proud to support Francisco for City Council. Not only have I known Francisco since he was a staffer in my Congressional office, but I have had the chance to watch him grow into a leader on countless issues in Albany.
Where Hiram Monserrate's collusion set our progressive goals back, Francisco Moya moved them all the more forward. Francisco sponsored and championed the Dream Act, so that all New York students, regardless of immigration status, could have access to affordable higher education. He stood up to the real estate industry to secure needed affordable housing for our city. Most of all, he fought time and again for policies like paid family leave and $15 minimum wage that strengthen families and ensure that they have the resources to lead healthier, more prosperous lives.
This is why countless unions, advocacy groups, and elected officials at all levels of government have joined me in supporting Francisco's candidacy. I know that they share my belief in Francisco's ability to bring his unparalleled leadership to City Hall, just as I know that they are deeply afraid of what Hiram Monserrate would do in that same Council seat.
Let's be clear: Monserrate comes nowhere near Moya in terms of community supporters, positive accomplishments, or campaign funds raised. His electoral track record is even worse. Since 2010, Monserrate lost three straight elections and hasn't won a Democratic primary since 2005. In this sense, Moya has the clear advantage going into the September 12 vote, but nothing can be taken for granted.
We shouldn't forget that many people wrote off Donald Trump. It was assumed that a thrice-married, fraud-tainted reality star with a trail of sexual assault accusations would never be president, and yet here we are. We must not be this complacent again in the face of a corrupt abuser like Hiram Monserrate with a criminal record looking to secure a prestigious job in city government.
Electing Hiram Monserrate would send the message that it’s OK to steal taxpayer money. Electing Hiram Monserrate would send the message that abusing your partner is OK and can be explained away by a momentary lapse in judgement. This is deeply troubling, especially as so many struggle with the wounds of domestic abuse and sexual assault.
After all, this is New York and the world is watching. Our city overwhelming rejected Trump and his politics of hate and abuse at the ballot box. Even today, we continue to send the message that our city is place of diversity, tolerance and equality. Will the voters of the 21st City Council District send the message that Hiram Monserrate doesn't reflect our values, as they did with Trump? I certainly hope so.
Rep. Nydia Velázquez represents New York’s 7th Congressional District, which includes parts of Brooklyn, Manhattan, and Queens. On Twitter @ReElectNydia.