By Bill Parry
A 16-year-old high school junior from East Elmhurst is so angry with state Sen. Jose Peralta (D-East Elmhurst), he has decided to run against him in 2018, when he will be old enough to hold a seat in the Senate.
Tahseen Chowdhury, a student at Manhattan’s prestigious Stuyvesant High School, was disappointed in Peralta’s decision last winter to defect from the mainline Democrats and join the eight-member Independent Democratic Conference, which caucus with Republicans, giving GOP lawmakers a majority in the Senate.
An allegation that Peralta was one of three IDC members accepting stipends for committee chairmanships they do not hold only fueled Chowdhury’s fire.
Chowhury filed the necessary paperwork to run as a candidate for Peralta’s seat in Senate District 13.
“As Democrats across the nation come together to fight for progressive values, our own state senator is solely empowering himself and Republicans,” Chowdhury said. “We cannot keep accepting watered-down versions of progressive legislation from the IDC. New York should be at the forefront of the progressive movement, not enabling Trump Republicans to get their way.”
Chowdhry knew something was amiss when Peralta held a raucous town hall meeting after he had already announced his decision to join the IDC.
“That town hall was held after he had already made his decision,” Chowdhury said. “I found that unsettling and it didn’t make sense. Shouldn’t he have held a town hall and listened to his constituents before making such a decision? That’s no way to represent a community.”
Peralta declined to comment. Last week he visited PS 69 in Jackson Heights, presenting a check for $100,000 in state funds to replace the school’s dilapidated public address system. In prior weeks Peralta has visited several non-profit organizations and delivered checks for $50,000 to improve legal aid and other services for immigration communities.
Chowdhury’s parents emigrated to the United States in the early ‘90s and became American citizens to offer their son a better future. He understands the importance of keeping families together and supports a legal defense fund for undocumented immigrants, and says he will push to bring the Sanctuary State legislation to the floor for a vote in Albany.
“Look, I grew up in East Elmhurst and I know his base is in Corona and he’s scared of the progressives in Jackson Heights,” Chowdhury said. “By doling out money, he’s trying to buy the votes of community organizations. He will spend a ton of money in the immigrant communities while the Republicans hold the purse strings. Essentially it’s a way for him to bribe the community. Doling out money is not representing the people.”
If elected, Chowdhury is committed to pushing progressive legislation, such as single-payer health care and the Dream Act through the Senate. He would also like to focus on education.
“The reason certain students don’t do well in school is not because they lack intelligence and it is not because they care less about their future,” he said. “It is because these students grow up in communities and families with issues and a complicated set of circumstances. It is important that schools are able to provide students with the support staff and tools they need to do well.”
Although he rolled out his campaign less than two weeks ago, it seems well organized.
“I know how this works and I have terrific people behind me. We have a few adults involved with the team, but mostly it’s students from Stuyvesant, Townsend Harris and Bronx Science, students who care,” Chowdhry said. “We were actually planning it for several months. We wanted to make sure we were ready because I’m 16 and we know people would be skeptical.
Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at bparr