Surrounded by dozens of supporters carrying campaign posters, Ramos declared herself a “real Democrat.”
Exactly one year ago, President Donald Trump announced his travel ban on a handful of Muslim-majority countries. That same day, State Senator Jose Peralta, representing a wide swath of western Queens, announced that he had joined the Independent Democratic Conference (IDC), which has a power-sharing agreement with State Senate Republicans.
That decision led not only to anger and backlash from progressive constituents, but also threats of electoral challenges against the senator.
“We may live in the biggest city in the United States, but so many of the things we rely on are actually decided up in Albany,” Ramos said. “Right now, we can’t rely on our state senator to do the right thing.”
The former de Blasio press aide discussed her campaign platform, which tackles improvements for subway and bus riders, rent reform, and funding for public education. She called for the MTA to open up its books and for elevators at every station for seniors, families and New Yorkers with disabilities.
Ramos also demanded the removal of lead paint from elevated subway tracks, like the 7 train structure running from Long Island City to Corona, instead of just a study. That was a shot at Peralta’s legislation that authorizes an MTA study on lead paint chips.
The State Senate candidate also highlighted her background in public service. Her first job was as an assistant at a law firm in Jackson Heights. Ramos later worked for several labor unions before taking up senior communications posts at City Hall.
“Now is the right time to organize, educate and win,” she said. “I’m a real Democrat who will vote with my party. I hope to count your vote in September.”
Susan Kang, a Jackson Heights resident and CUNY professor, introduced Ramos at the kickoff event. She helped form a group called “No IDC NY,” which supports challengers of the IDC and educates the public about the eight-member faction.
She attributed the IDC’s coalition with State Senate Republicans as a reason why New York doesn’t have strong enough protections for immigrants, women’s reproductive rights and universal health care.
“Instead of working with other Democrats and pushing for progressive legislation that we all need, especially in the age of Trump, they are collaborating and giving power over to the Senate Republicans,” she said.
Supporter Len Maniace also said he believes the IDC is bad for his neighborhood. Though Peralta allocated more funding to schools and community groups because of his switch, Maniace said that doesn’t help address the larger issues such as transit, education and the economy.
“If our subway system crumbles, then New York City stops existing,” he said. “That’s what’s important.”
Maniace called Peralta joining the IDC “a big mistake” because he doesn’t trust a group that wants to set themselves up as “kingmakers.” Though he personally likes the senator and believes Peralta has always been friendly, he will not support him in this race.
“I just think he’s made a terrible mistake. I cannot support somebody who is involved with the IDC,” Maniace said. “I just think it’s bad for Jackson Heights, bad for New York City and bad for New York state.”
On the same day as Ramos’s campaign kickoff, Peralta released a “year in review” summary of his legislative and budgetary accomplishments since joining the IDC. In the last 12 months, The senator has allocated more than $5 million in funding for local schools and groups.
Legislative victories he touted include paid family leave and raise the age, state approval to build a 300-seat pre-K school at the New York Hall of Science, and a $10 million legal defense fund to protect immigrants.
Last week, Peralta also announced that his office has worked on nearly 1,800 constituent cases, the highest amount since he took office in the State Senate.
“Since I decided to join the Independent Democratic Conference exactly one year ago, I now have a seat at the table that allows me to deliver more and better services for my community,” he said. “Clearly, this was an extremely effective year, both in terms of legislation and bringing much-needed resources to my constituents.”