Hiram Monserrate, a former state senator who betrayed the LGBTQ community with his vote against same-sex marriage rights in 2009, is vying to return to the State Legislature a decade after he was expelled from the body and subsequently sentenced to prison.
The New York Daily News first reported in November of last year that Monserrate had filed to run for State Assembly, likely against Jeffrion L. Aubry in Queens’ 35th Assembly District, which encompasses Elmhurst, East Elmhurst, and parts of North Corona. Prior to his election to the Senate, Monserrate served on the City Council from 2002 through 2008. Phone calls to a number associated with Monserrate were not answered and he could not be reached for comment for this story.
Monserrate, 52, first watched his political career go up in flames in 2009 when he was found guilty of misdemeanor assault a year after he slashed his girlfriend in the face with glass and dragged her through a lobby. He was kicked out of the State Senate the next year, but that wouldn’t be the end of his troubles: He would later get slapped with a two-year prison sentence in 2012 for misusing city cash during his time as a councilmember.
Since he was kicked out of the State Legislature, Monserrate has repeatedly sought to regain his political footing. He immediately — and unsuccessfully — ran in the special election for the seat he was thrown out of in 2010 before running a failed campaign for State Assembly that same year. After he was freed from prison, he couldn’t resist running for something yet again — this time for Democratic district leader, and lost yet again.
Like clockwork, he ran another failed bid — for City Council in 2017 — but went on to become elected district leader in 2018, a position he currently holds.
Monserrate has managed to beef up his war chest in recent months. Campaign finance data filed with the state shows he raked in $68,772 in the two-month period between November of last year and January of this year. Billionaire real estate investor Alexander Rovt and Tatiana Rybak of MAK Realty in Florida both chipped in $5,000, the Flushing-based Zhiging Social Daycare Corp. contributed $2,000, and Ditmars Boulevard Block Association President Frank Taylor donated $1,500.
When he first launched his political career, Monserrate voiced support for LGBTQ rights causes, only to later backtrack on his pledge to vote for marriage equality. In his years on the City Council, he turned up at LGBTQ-related events and was, for example, among three members of the Council to introduce a resolution asking Congress and then-President George Bush to repeal Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. But that gay-friendly front evaporated instantly when he voted against same-sex marriage in December of 2009, prompting the LGBTQ community to mobilize against him and encourage a primary challenger. The need to challenge him became moot when he was expelled early in 2010, though activists worked hard to ensure that he did not win the subsequent special election.
It is not clear where Monserrate stands on marriage these days — or any other LGBTQ issue — but it should be noted that he was not alone in his reluctance to support marriage equality during the four years the Legislature formally considered the issue prior to its final passage in 2011. There are several Democratic elected officials currently holding office who opposed marriage rights during their time in the State Legislature, including Assemblymembers Marcos Crespo of the Bronx and Steven Cymbrowitz of Brooklyn. Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz, Jr., and his father, City Councilmember Ruben Diaz, Sr., were in the Assembly and Senate, respectively, when they cast “no” votes. Bronx Councilmember Vanessa Gibson was listed as “absent” for the final marriage vote in 2011, after having voted “no” in 2009. Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie voted “yes” in 2011 — prior to assuming the speakership — but in earlier years had voted “no.”