By Bill Parry
Nearly one year after he joined the breakaway Independent Democratic Conference, state Sen. Jose Peralta (D-East Elmhurst) is defending his move in light of sexual misconduct allegations against IDC leader Jeff Klein.
Jackson Heights resident Jessica Ramos, Mayor Bill de Blasio’s former director of community and ethnic media, who is challenging Peralta in November, issued a statement last week after news broke that a former aide had accused Klein of forcibly kissing her outside an Albany bar in 2015. Klein, of the Bronx, denies the accusation.
“Today, amid serious allegations of impropriety and sexual harassment by Senate IDC leader Jeffrey Klein, I call on State Senator Jose Peralta to end his defection and return to the Senate Democratic Conference,” Ramos said. “If Senator Peralta wants to be counted as a Democrat, he must stand up for victims of sexual assault and refuse to be a part of a conference led by a sexual predator.
“The #MeToo movement is inspiring women across the country to speak out against sexual misconduct and I stand in solidarity with the bravery and truth. We deserve to trust our elected leaders with our voice and our safety.”
Peralta joined six other IDC members in issuing a joint statement standing by Klein, calling him a longtime champion for women and for the state. As for Ramos’s demand, Peralta was defiant.
“As a father, a husband and a son, I have zero tolerance for any attacks against women, and my record as a legislator is clear evidence of that,” Peralta said. “I have always fought tirelessly to protect women, to combat sexual harassment, to advocate for women’s rights, and funded groups that support victims of domestic violence.
“When I first ran for the state Senate, my campaign focused on battling domestic violence and ensuring survivors had the necessary resources available to escape their abusers. I take all sexual harassment allegations seriously, and welcome any independent investigation into this matter, as does Senator Klein. I am also a strong supporter of Governor Cuomo’s proposal to fight sexual harassment and looking forward to working with my colleagues to pass this much-needed reform.”
During a rally at City Hall with a coalition of progressive Democratic women’s groups standing in solidarity with the former aide, Erica Vladimer, Ramos slammed Peralta and the other IDC members, calling their defense of Klein “straight out of the Republican playbook” as members of Empire State Indivisible called on Cuomo to hasten an independent investigation and remove Klein from his position of power.
“Just as Republican elected officials offer thoughts and prayers after a school shooting but offer no action on gun control, in the same way that we see the devastation that Hurricane Maria left in Puerto Rico but Republicans take no action on climate change, we need the IDC and the rest of the Senate to take action on this one, to stand up for women, to stand up for victims of sexual assault,” Ramos said.
After the rally, Black Institute founder and President Bertha Lewis said the City Hall rally degraded the #MeToo movement by politicizing, trivializing and minimizing it.
“The political opportunism without investigation or due process is rampant,” Lewis said. “It is clear that some groups are more concerned with taking down the IDC than addressing real concerns about abuse by men in power. Both Senator Klein and Ms. Vladimer have called for an investigation. Let truth, not politics or agenda, rule the day.”
Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at bparr