By Bill Parry
Speaking in English, Spanish and even some Bengali, Jackson Heights resident Jessica Ramos launched her campaign to challenge state Sen. Jose Peralta (D-East Elmhurst) in the Democratic primary next fall. Ramos announced her candidacy last Thursday on the first anniversary of Peralta’s defection to the Independent Democratic Conference in an alliance with Senate Republicans, allowing the GOP to maintain a majority and block legislation such as a state DREAM Act and the Reproductive Health Act.
“One year ago today, the bigot in the White House announced a travel ban on majority Muslim countries, targeting our fellow Queens residents and making them feel unsafe,” Ramos said. “That same day, our senator — who calls himself a Democrat — joined the conference that concedes control of our senate to Republicans. The Senate Republicans have the power because they have his vote. Today, we say it is time for a real Democrat to represent us in the state Senate.”
Ramos, 32, a married mother of two, resigned as director of Latino media at City Hall last month in order to launch her campaign. She is a strong labor advocate with deep experience championing union rights, having worked with Build Up NYC to fight for construction, building, hotel and maintenance workers in New York City, and she served as a Democratic district leader from 2010 to 2014.
“As a mother of two, Queens native, and MTA rider, I know our community needs a real Democrat in Albany to fight for stronger schools, affordable health care, and a subway system that actually works,” Ramos said, surrounded by several dozen supporters in subfreezing temperatures across from PS 69, where her sons attend school. “Now more than ever, state government should be our defensive line against the Trump White House — but instead, our state senator is siding with Republicans to block single-payer health care, the DREAM Act and more. I am a real Democrat, and I will vote with my party.”
Meanwhile, Peralta noted the anniversary of his switch to the IDC, calling it a “successful year” in which he secured more than $5 million in state funds for local schools and community-based organizations; answered nearly 2,000 constituent calls; and had bills signed into law to combat lead paint chips falling from the 7 train and the alienation of parkland to build a 300-seat pre-K school in Flushing Meadow Corona Park. He also delivered a $10 million legal defense fund to protect immigrants.
“Since I decided to join the Independent Democratic Conference exactly one year ago, I now have a seat at the table that allows me to deliver more and better services for my community,” Peralta said. “Clearly, this was an extremely effective year, both in terms of legislation and bringing much-needed resources to my constituents. My focus is on delivering for my community, whether it’s by bringing state funding for our schools and local organizations, or by passing crucial legislation.”
In 2017, Peralta’s office opened almost 1,800 constituent cases, a record during his seven years representing the 13th Senate District. Before that, he served in the Assembly from 2002 to 2010, and several of his constituents praised his accomplishments over the past year.
“I have watched his words but more importantly his actions,” East Elmhurst resident Marjorie Clark said. “His support to clean up Roosevelt Avenue; working with our assemblyman to get more funding for desperately needed schools; looking after our seniors to protect them against deed theft. I think the thing that I admire and support about the senator is his willingness to challenge the political machine to get what is best for our community.
“Do I agree with him on everything? Does any constituent? But he makes himself available to clarify his positions and listens to all sides. And for that reason — I support him.”
Corona resident Isaac Carmignani said, “At a time when many of our leaders engage in polarizing debate, Senator Peralta takes a nuanced, balanced and informed approach to governance while being kind and helpful to the community.”
Corona resident Malika Shabazz praised Peralta for prioritizing his constituents.
“He is a progressive legislator, and anyone who doubts it should take a look at his record from marriage equality and Raise the Age, to free college tuition and helping allocate a $10 million state fund to provide free legal service to immigrants,” he said. “With President Trump continuously attacking our state, this is not the time to support a person who lacks legislative experience.”
But Ramos, who grew up in Astoria and lived in Corona and East Elmhurst before Jackson Heights, believes she can represent the district better.
“I’m Queens, I’m this district, I’m a straphanger, I’m the daughter of immigrants, I’m a working woman,” she said. “I’m a real Democrat who will vote with my party.”
Reach reporter Bill Parry by email at bparr