Heard Around Town

Hiram Monserrate can run again, after judge strikes down law

The political pariah from Queens got a big procedural win in his latest comeback attempt.

Former New York City Council Member Hiram Monserrate leaving court after a verdict in an assault case over a decade ago.

Former New York City Council Member Hiram Monserrate leaving court after a verdict in an assault case over a decade ago. Ellis Kaplan-Pool/Getty Images

Former New York City Council Member Hiram Monserrate can’t be barred from running for the City Council again, even though he was convicted on corruption charges, a judge ruled Tuesday.

Monserrate is a political pariah, expelled from the state Senate in 2010 after being charged with assault. He later pleaded guilty to felony mail fraud charges tied to his earlier stint as a council member. The council passed a law in 2021 disqualifying people convicted of certain corruption charges from running for elected office in the city – a law that was pretty clearly meant to ban the Queens Democrat from running. But Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Machelle Sweeting ruled that the law didn’t apply to Monserrate, since it wasn’t written in a way to specifically apply to previous convictions and therefore could only apply to corruption convictions that occurred after the law was passed. The lead sponsor of Local Law 15 of 2021, Council Member Justin Brannan, didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

“This law was targeted to keep my client out of office and now the voters will have their ruling,” Aaron Foldenauer, Monserrate’s lawyer, told City & State. Monserrate is again trying to unseat City Council Member Francisco Moya, a longtime political rival. Moya beat Monserrate in 2017, and although Monserrate tried to run again in 2021, he failed to make the ballot, after courts confirmed that the city law meant he couldn’t run.

That might have been the case again this year. Campaign Confidential reported last week that the New York City Board of Elections again kicked him off the ballot, due to the law. Monserrate dropped his separate legal case that challenged the content of the law, however. And this year, Monserrate’s allies tried a different legal strategy, Politico first reported. Six residents of City Council District 21, led by Ileana Martinez and represented by election lawyer Jerry Goldfeder sued the city, arguing that the law barring Monserrate was unconstitutional since it disenfranchised them as voters and conflicted with state law. 

That’s the case the Sweeting ruled on, and Foldenauer said he expected Monserrate to be added back on the ballot for the June Democratic primary. It’s possible that the city, or the supporters of Moya who challenged Monserrate’s eligibility before the Board of Elections, will appeal the ruling.

A political consultant for Moya, Matt Rey from Red Horse Strategies, didn’t take that option off the table. “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. 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,” he said in a written statement.

Monserrate won races for Democratic district leader, but has failed in all of his numerous attempts to make it back to legislative office.

Monserrate tweeted a Bible verse Tuesday, shortly after the ruling came down: “Though it tarries, wait for it; Because it will surely come.”