Court ruling clears path for ex-con Hiram Monserrate to challenge Moya in next month’s Democratic primary

A court ruling gives new life to ex-con Hiram Monserrate’s bitter feud with Councilman Francisco Moya. Monserrate will likely have his name back on the ballot for June’s Democratic primary. (Photo by Bill Parry)

Ex-con Hiram Monserrate will likely be on the ballot for next month’s Democratic primary and challenge Councilman Francisco Moya for his old seat after a law designed to keep him from running for public office in New York City was struck down in Manhattan Supreme Court Tuesday.

The city’s Board of Elections threw Monserrate off the ballot last month, citing Local Law 15, known colloquially as “Hiram’s Law,” which was struck down by Supreme Court Justice Machelle Sweeting. In her ruling, Sweeting wrote that the law, passed by the City Council in 2021, did not apply to Monserrate and its “retroactive application is deemed unconstitutional,” and Monserrate should not be barred “from holding elected city office for certain felony convictions prior to the enactment of Local Law 15.”

Monserrate was sentenced to two years in federal prison in 2012 after he funneled City Council money to a nonprofit and used the cash to fund his successful state Senate campaign. Previously, Monserrate was expelled from the state Senate in 2010 for assaulting his girlfriend.

“Today, the New York State Supreme Court struck down an unconstitutional NYC law that infringed upon the voter’s right to choose — and by that finding, I will have the opportunity to run for City Council again,” Monserrate said. “Government should never misuse its power to quash dissent nor favor one candidate over the other in political races.”

Monserrate’s election law attorney Aaron Folenauer called the ruling a big victory.

“It’s tremendous. He should be on the ballot in time for the Democratic primary on June 27,” Foldenauer told Schneps Media. “We don’t know if the city is going to appeal that decision, but either way the ballot should be set so that voters are not disenfranchised. We claim to live in this progressive city, where people have second chances, and yet we had this terribly unfair law, which didn’t even exist at the time of Mr. Monserrate’s conviction, which imposes a lifetime ban and that goes against progressive New York City values. The court rightly struck it down yesterday.”

Schneps Media reached out to the Board of Elections and is awaiting a response.

Meanwhile, the ruling sets up a rematch between Monserrate and his nemesis Moya, who was the original sponsor of “Hiram’s Law” in 2018 before Brooklyn Councilman Justin Brannan became its lead sponsor. Moya defeated Monserrate in 2017 easily and Monserrate was kept off the ballot in a potential rematch in 2021 after a court ruling based on Local Law 15. Unable to run for city office, Monserrate failed twice to unseat Assemblyman Jeffrion Aubry, but did win election to district leader after building political power through his East Elmhurst Corona Democratic Club, whose members were plaintiffs in the motion against Local Law 15.

The animosity between Moya and Monserrate runs deep.

A lifelong resident of Corona, Moya served in the state Assembly and decided to run for City Council when then-Councilwoman Julissa Ferreras-Copeland decided against seeking a third term. Moya decided to come home and fight Monserrate’s bid to regain his seat representing District 21.
Moya’s political consultant Matthew Rey of Red Horse Strategies, said the Moya campaign is mulling its options.

“We’re reviewing this decision and next steps, but one fact remains true — Hiram Monserrate has proven countless times that he is unfit for office,” Rey said. Serving our community is a privilege, and Queens voters know that corrupt felons like Hiram have no place in our city government, and that Council Member Francisco Moya has delivered for working families his entire career.”