The Best Primary Challenge In Queens
Childhood Sweethearts, Lisa Moreno and Luis Rosero, are to be married shortly after the Primary election.
By MICHAEL SCHENKLER
On September 14, a primary election will be held in New York State. The primary is the means by which the enrolled members of the party select which candidate shall represent them in the general election to be held on November 2.
And this year, as in all even-numbered years, every member of the dreadful, dysfunctional State Legislature is up for reelection.
In our city, with the exception of a very few districts, the Democratic line is tantamount to election for local legislators. In Queens, 18 out of 18 State Assembly members are Democrats, while creative map drawing has allowed the Republicans to retain 2 of the 7 State Senate seats.
Therefore, enrolled Democrats almost always get to pick the election winner in the primary. In New York City, the primary therefore is often much more significant than the general, November election. So if you’re an enrolled party member, pay attention to the local news and if there is a Primary in your district, vote on September 14.
We are realists. We know that although the overwhelming majority of the people of our borough believe the State Legislature to be a wasteful gathering of people, many of whom are corrupt, morally bankrupt and almost all self-serving, they for some strange reason rarely pin the wrap on their locally elected legislator. Throughout the State, people condemn the late budgets, broken promises, do-nothing sessions, sexual and personal misconduct and insider dealing, but they rarely hold their own member accountable. Election after election, the same legislators are returned to Albany to sell their votes to the leadership in exchange for perks, staff and favors.
In case you haven’t been paying attention to this column, or to the news, our State legislature is as dysfunctional as they come and its members are woefully inept at bringing change. We must change our elected State Legislators.
It’s just not that easy.
No matter how bad things get, name recognition, districts that have been drawn with a scalpel to cut out opponents and include supporters, a perverse fundraising apparatus which furthers the selling of the soul of the legislature, paid for mailings and staff used to further election efforts, make the playing field so unequal that challengers can’t seem to win. It’s the case in the general election; it’s the case in the primary.
In neighboring Nassau County, a courageous County Executive Tom Suozzi has selected one incumbent in each legislative house and is trying to unseat them. This symbolic effort to show Albany we’re mad as hell and we’re not going it take it anymore is as commendable as any effort any political insider has undertaken.
In Queens, we wonder if such things as incumbents losing can happen. The insiders, regardless of party, don’t like to see the system shaken. So there are almost no inter-party challenges ever. The Queens Democratic Organization protects their incumbents as long as they are loyal to the party. And so all 24 Democratic State Legislators are backed by the courtroom challenges of the talented law partners of Dem County Leader Tom Manton. They are supported by a network of financial contributions of PACs and Unions who find it self-serving to maintain the status quo. And then there is Albany Leadership, with a network of operatives and agents who will “volunteer” to help the incumbent. The status quo must be maintained so that power remains with the present leadership.
We want to break that cycle.
So when we see a credible challenger to an incumbent State Legislator, we look very carefully.
We have found one, and we like him.
And although, we will certainly evaluate and compare the incumbent and the challenger in next week’s paper, we feel it is only fair to provide a challenger of merit a little space to try to help in a small way to level a very uneven playing field.
One such incumbent of merit stopped by recently to chat with us.
Meet Luis Rosero
Luis Rosero is having the time of his life.
“Politics is a blood sport,” he became animated as he told us. “It’s the ultimate game of chess.”
And Luis loves to play.
And he is playing for real. He is a candidate for the NY State Senate seat held by John Sabini. He is challenging a regular Democrat in the 13th District – a loyal party member – in the Democratic Primary held on September 14.
“I declared my candidacy because John Sabini has failed,” Luis proclaimed to us proudly. In this, a new district that Sabini won two year ago after being term-limited out of the City Council, Luis explains he extended his hand to help.
However, it took Sabini seven or eight months to even open a district office, and he is “never anywhere.”
“I’m a constituent,” Luis insists, “and he’s not responsive to anyone.”
For Luis, it’s all about serving the constituents.
We’ve run into Luis a small handful of times since his first try for office in 1999 — most notably at the Nassau County Democratic Party Annual Dinner a year and a half ago, when Bill Clinton was the evening’s speaker. Luis was there working for little-known East End Congressional challenger Tim Bishop. What I recall as being months before the election, Luis was predicting that the Dems and Bishop were going to retake the 1st Congressional District in Eastern Long Island, in what ultimately turned out to be the Party’s biggest upset in New York’s 2002 elections.
Luis went on to serve as Bishop’s District manager, perfecting his skills at constituent services.
Luis’ political credentials includes work for Congresswoman Nydia Velazquez providing constituent service when her district included the Corona piece he calls home, as well as a stint with the Democratic National Committee.
He grew as a community leader working with the Queens District Attorney, the NYPD and community groups on neighborhood concerns such as the fight against crime, anti-graffiti programs, neighborhood cleanups, noise reduction and quality of life issues.
In 1998, Luis was appointed by President Clinton to serve with the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanic Americans. Luis then went to work for the U.S. Department of Labor dealing with issues of worker safety, fair labor practices, increasing the minimum wage, ensuring pension and retirement coverage and promoting equal pay for women.
Although he challenged Hiram Monserrate in ’99, and came in second in a large field, the day after a rather contentious election, he told the victor: “We need to work together.”
And in the interest of his community, Luis has supported the incumbent and notes, “Hiram has built an incredible organization.” He adds “and has delivered for our community.”
We followed up our interview with Rosero by calling Monserrate, to get his take on the election. (Now in all fairness, I write this on the plane as I return from a week in Florida and don’t know if any public pronouncements have recently come from Monserrate.)
“Luis is intelligent, bright, hardworking and from the community,” Monserrate told us.
“But Hiram,” I asked, “Is that an endorsement? Who are you supporting?”
“Officially?” Hiram asked and answered, “I will not be supporting Sabini.” He is unacceptable! His failure to open an office demonstrated that.”
Now, although Monserrate, the powerful local Councilman, didn’t make an endorsement, it was made clear to this writer that Monserrate and his organization will be behind the candidacy of Luis Rosero.
Also in Luis’ favor, he is a child of Corona. He was born in the District at Elmhurst hospital and grew up and attended school in Corona — St. Leo’s School & St. John’s Prep. He received his degree from the State University of New York College at Purchase.
He and his childhood sweetheart Lisa Moreno plan a September 25th Wedding – strategically placed after the primary but allowing enough time for a brief honeymoon and a return to full-time campaigning before the November general election. Luis explains that Lisa, a doctor at N.S.L.I.J’s Schneider’s Children’s Hospital, is all aboard his political effort. They will of course live in the district, just eight blocks from where Luis grew up.
“We’re trying to open up the Primary system,” Luis explained. “The archaic rules do not help present New York City as the capital of democracy.”
“When I win,” Luis continued, “I would love to help open up government to the people . . . .We are fighting a war, to insure democracy.”
“I was in Florida for Gore, and I’m here to make sure that no voter is disenfranchised.”
While Luis sounded clearly like an advocate for oppressed minorities, he rejects support based on ethnicity. In a district where Latinos comprise 44% of the registered Dems as compared to 24% White and 11% African American, Rosero insists, “I don’t think ethnicity should have anything to do with it.”
Although he considers himself a reformer, he is certainly not anti-organization. He supports the reelection of Congressman Joe Crowley and looks to work with the Democratic Party to help bring needed change to the system.
But the most telling observation of this skilled political operative who has worked campaigns from New York to Florida and Queens to the Hamptons was, “The job is the District!”
And serving the people of Corona, Elmhurst and Jackson Heights is his mission.
Luis Rosero’s decision to run for the 13th Senatorial District is based on his experience, deep commitment to public service and his dedication to making his community a better place for to live.
He is an underdog on a mission. And if I had to pick one Queens race to watch for an upset this Primary Day, I’d have my eyes focused on the 13th Senate District.