Monserrate Expelled!

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Update: Governor Paterson has called a special election for Tuesday, March 15th to fill Monserrate’s vacant seat.

Tonight the State Senate has voted by a count of 53 – 8 to expel Queens Senator Hiram Monserrate.  Voting against the expulsion were Senators Monserrate, Espada, Diaz, and Kruger (the “gang of four” or “amigos”) and Senators Sampson, Dilan, Adams, and Parker.

Although the expulsion is effective immediately, citizen Monserrate has already vowed to mount a legal challenge to the ousting.

Rather than bringing a close to Mr. Monserrate’s legislative career, the expulsion could be the beginning of a lengthy fight that would play out in the courts and create further instability in the already volatile political atmosphere in Albany.

As the Senate moved forward with a vote, Mr. Monserrate’s lawyers were drafting a temporary restraining order seeking to have him reinstated. One of the lawyers, Norman Siegel, said the order would be filed Wednesday in federal court in Manhattan.

“This case raises substantial questions concerning what a constitutional democracy is all about,” Mr. Siegel said. “The New York State Senate does not have the constitutional and legal authority to expel Senator Monserrate. And even if they did, their actions have not been consistent with due process of law.”

The expulsion followed roughly five hours of closed-door negotiations among Senate Democrats, though Mr. Monserrate was asked to leave the room for part of the deliberations.

A prolonged legal battle could send the Senate into a further state of dysfunction, as the Democrats now lack the 32 votes that are required by Senate rules to pass any legislation.  Without Monserrate, the Senate Democrats only hold a 31 to 30 advantage over the Republicans.  Of course, such a split could usher in an era of bi-partisan cooperation, but remember, this is Albany we are talking about.

Now that Monserrate’s seat is officially vacant, Governor Paterson may call a special election to fill the seat, to take place with at least 30 days notice.  Although it is unclear if Paterson will call the election immediately or wait until all legal matters are resolved, Assemblyman Jose Peralta will most likely run for the seat with the backing of the Queens County Democrats.

We will continue to keep you updated as this story unfolds and evolves.