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Tom Suozzi & Hiram Monserrate Are Courting Conservative Communities of Color in Queens
While the left has largely checked out of the New York governor's race, Suozzi and Monserrate are rallying the multiracial working class around a right-wing agenda.
The centerpiece of Tom Suozzi’s campaign for governor has been his pledge to get tough on violent crime. So it’s no small irony that as the race winds down, the Long Island congressman has struck up a partnership with a violent criminal: former state senator Hiram Monserrate. In 2010, Monserrate was convicted of assault for slashing his girlfriend’s face with a broken drinking glass. He got off with probation, but later did two years in prison over a campaign finance scandal. The State Senate voted to expel him from office, and he’s been persona non grata in polite company ever since.
But some people can’t afford to be picky about the company they keep. Despite his troubling history, Monserrate still enjoys a base of support in the East Elmhurst and Corona neighborhoods of Queens, where he presides over one of the few disciplined political clubs outside of the county machine. With Democratic elites unwilling to back his coup attempt against Kathy Hochul, Suozzi is only the latest supplicant to appeal for aid at Monserrate’s court in exile.
While the two men haven’t appeared in public together, they haven’t exactly been discreet about coordinating their activities over the past month either. To understand their connection, we must first get a handle on the cast of characters in Hiramworld.
Monserrate has made numerous comeback attempts over the past six years, most of which have been foiled by party leadership. But he did manage to snag a district leader position in 2018, and at least four other district leaders in Queens are members of his political club: Lilliana Melo, Ramón Cando, Sonya Harvey, and Anthony Miranda. All of them are up for re-election next week, with Monserrate and Cando also competing in Democratic primaries for State Assembly. Monserrate is challenging incumbent assemblyman Jeff Aubry in AD-35, and Cando is running for an open seat in AD-30.
On May 21st, Suozzi’s campaign organized a “community walk” through Corona in partnership with Monserrate’s club. The event lasted all day and culminated with a rally at Diversity Plaza in Jackson Heights. After addressing their supporters, Suozzi and his running mate Diana Reyna accepted endorsements from several leaders in the neighborhood’s Bangladeshi community and the New American Voters Association, a group that helps recently naturalized immigrants register to vote.
As soon as they cleared out, Monserrate arrived at the plaza for a rally of his own. He gave a speech to the same crowd that had just been cheering for Suozzi and Reyna, and even accepted an endorsement from the same group of Bangladeshi uncles. Though they were scrupulous not to be seen together in the flesh, Suozzi’s head loomed large behind Monserrate on a vinyl banner left over from earlier, and their campaign placards mixed liberally among their supporters.
Ten days later, Suozzi and Reyna held a press conference to announce a cross-endorsement with Cando’s campaign for State Assembly. City Councilman Bob Holden, whose district partially overlaps with AD-30, was also on hand to offer his support for all three candidates. While Monserrate himself hasn’t formally endorsed the ticket, Suozzi-Reyna campaign placards adorn the walls of his club’s headquarters in Corona. Polite company might not be fond of Hiram Monserrate, but that still leaves plenty of room for him in politics.
Suozzi’s congressional district is one of the wealthiest in the country and one of the whitest in the state. To his left-wing critics, all the provocative rhetoric around quality of life issues - especially the threat of violent crime - seems calibrated to resonate with this demographic. But if Suozzi’s path to victory runs through his own respectable constituents in Nassau County, why is he slumming it with a convicted felon like Hiram Monserrate in Queens?
Contrary to progressive wishcasting, polls show that among New Yorkers, affluent whites in the suburbs are the least concerned about public safety, while working-class people of color are expressing the most alarm. In this context, it should hardly come as a surprise that some polls of the governor’s race show Suozzi doing far better with Hispanic and Asian voters than with white voters, who have been drifting towards Hochul over the course of the campaign.
It’s important to note that high-quality public polling in the governor’s race is scarce, and the results that are available vary significantly between pollsters. There’s every chance that the outcome on election day will be quite different as well. Nevertheless, these trends do offer some insight into why Suozzi would choose to partner with Monserrate that go beyond mere desperation.
Monserrate’s assembly district is 58 percent Hispanic; Cando’s district is 50 percent Asian. Both are running on a public safety platform identical to Suozzi’s: more funding for police, more aggressive prosecution, and rollbacks to New York’s 2019 bail reform law. So are all of their affiliated candidates for district leader and state committee posts. Monserrate’s club embodies a conservative strain of politics that has long been present in Hispanic and Asian immigrant communities in the US, but which has been gaining stregnth since 2020.
Vulgar Marxism has covered this phenomenon extensively as it’s manifested in Queens. It’s why Donald Trump did better here than George W. Bush, and why Bill de Blasio put together a more diverse coalition here than Eric Adams. And though the number of right-leaning Hispanic and Asian voters in Queens is growing, plenty are registered Democrats who can vote in Democratic primaries. Suozzi may be hoping that Monserrate can help him funnel the energy being unleashed by this realignment into his bid for governor.
The New York left should indeed be disturbed by this alliance, but for reasons far more profound than Monserrate’s misdeeds. Jumaane Williams all but checked out of the governor’s race months ago due to the tragic circumstances gripping his family, and no fair-minded viewer of the last debate would say that he was the sharper and more effective critic of Kathy Hochul on the stage. While the left has fumbled its best opportunity for statewide power in decades, Suozzi is using his to build support for reactionary politics among the multiracial working class.