By Mark Hallum
Auribal Ramos stood in front of a panel of TVs last Thursday night, watching numbers from the polls roll in for his daughter, Jessica Ramos, at a crowded Jackson Heights watering hole as she was pulling ahead over “entrenched” state Sen. Jose Peralta (D-East Elmhurst).
The Ramos family’s journey to the United States from Colombia had been met with setbacks with the patriarch once being deported in a law enforcement raid in the 1980s and the matriarch crossing the Mexican border on a four-day trip on foot.
But on the night of the Democratic primary, Jessica Ramos pulled off a major upset by defeating the eight-year incumbent, a former member of the controversial Independent Democratic Conference, which became a trend across the state as two other former IDC officials — including state Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside) — also fell in the primary.
“We’ve unseated an entrenched incumbent,” Ramos said, handing credit to her staff during her victory party speech at Barriles — located at 83-14 37th Ave. “This was an incredible ordeal. I was having a ball at City Hall — I was, I was really enjoying my job — but sometimes, it’s time to come home and make sure your community is taken care of. Having lived in this district my entire life, having served on the community board, having been district leader for so many of you, we needed to make sure we were making a statement about how we couldn’t accept a turncoat Democrat as our state senator.”
Ramos secured a clear victory, getting 12,181 votes compared to 10,021 for Peralta, according to results from the city Board of Elections.
The Jackson Heights activist’s campaign has leaned heavily on a progressive, anti-IDC platform that put intense scrutiny on the breakaway Democrats for caucusing separately from the main line of the party and negotiating with the GOP to move left wing bills through the Republican-held state Senate.
Ramos has said she will work to create and pass bills that enact rent reform, such as eliminating “major capital improvement” rent increases, as well as address over-development in the district, which stretches from Corona to Ditmars.
Peralta switched over to the renegade IDC not long after the victory of Donald Trump in the 2016 presidential election, igniting a hailstorm of criticism against the state senator.
IDC members were viewed by progressive activists as turncoats to Republicans, particularly in Peralta’s case where outrage toward the Muslim ban issued by the White House had immigrant communities in uproar following negotiations made between the two groups to pass progressive legislation.
In April, however, Gov. Andrew Cuomo negotiated a truce between the warring Democratic groups by issuing an ultimatum: the IDC members dissolve their conference and help the mainline party win the majority in the state Senate, or face primary challenges.
Although the IDC members complied and returned to the party, the former renegade Democrats faced challengers anyway.
While Ramos raked in important endorsements from the likes of Mayor Bill de Blasio, City Council Speaker Cory Johnson (D-Manhattan) and gubernatorial candidate Cynthia Nixon, Peralta had support of his own from a variety of different labor unions.
Ramos continued to hold Peralta’s feet to the fire for his IDC membership, claiming Peralta and his associates had caucused with Republicans, which Peralta denied, claiming the IDC had caucused separately from both Democrats and Republicans.
“Part of the reason I’m running is I’m emblematic of the voter who was hurt by this budget and the one before it,” Ramos said in an April interview with the TimesLedger editorial staff. “There’s no talk of real rent reform, there are no tenant protections in the last two budgets and the only fix that made it into the budget for the MTA was the surcharge on for hire vehicles, which is a drop in the bucket compared to the investment we have to make in our infrastructure.”
Peralta spent July and August urging Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan (R-Smithtown) to call a bill to the floor to fund the speed camera program which was determined by the city Dept. of Transportation and City Comptroller Scott Stringer to reduce speeding and decrease the number of injuries and deaths across the city.
Eventually, Cuomo issued an executive order permitting the bill to be passed by City Hall and it was signed by de Blasio as school returned to session.
Despite the loss, Peralta offered his support to Ramos moving forward.
“If we want to move New York forward, all Democrats must work together,” Peralta said in statement released last Friday. “In that spirit, I will be supporting Ms. Ramos in the general election, and I will assist her in whatever capacity to ensure a smooth transition so that our constituents do not go without the vital services they depend on.”
With no Republican challenger in the Nov. 6 general election, Ramos is on track to represent District 13.
Reach reporter Mark Hallum by e-mail at mhall