Today’s news:

5 vie for Monserrate seat

As questions arose as to whether state Sen.−elect Hiram Monserrate (D−East Elmhurst) would be able to take office after he was charged with assault, his chief of staff joined a host of others vying for his City Council seat in a special election tentatively set for February.

Julissa Ferreras, 32, announced her candidacy last Thursday in front of City Hall with the endorsement of her current boss and numerous other Council members. She dismissed the notion that Monserrate’s arrest Friday on charges of cutting his girlfriend’s face with a broken glass would hurt her chances of being elected to replace him.

“What the Council member did in his private life is not the basis of my campaign,” she said. “It’s a very strong campaign and the amount of support and outpouring I’ve received in the last 72 hours has only invigorated me more.”

Ferreras will face off in the special election against several other local leaders, including Eduardo Giraldo, former president of the Queens Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, community activists Francisco Moya and Carlos Pena, and Democratic District Leader George Dixon.

Giraldo, a Colombian native, moved to the United States in 1981 as part of a student exchange program. He graduated from St. John’s University before beginning a career as an insurer.

Moya, 33, was born and raised in Corona. He is a community activist and former secretary for Gov. David Paterson whose latest high−profile work involved coordinating news conferences for the family of Jose Sucuzhanay, the Ecuadorian immigrant killed in an apparent hate crime Dec. 7 in Bushwick, Brooklyn.

Pena, 48, an immigrant from the Dominican Republic, has lived in Corona for 34 years. He is also an insurance broker.

Dixon, 59, operates a graphic design business in East Elmhurst and serves as the leader of the 35th Assembly District.

Ferreras, who grew up in Jackson Heights and Corona and got her start in politics working with former state Assemblyman Ivan Lafayette, based her platform on adding teachers in public schools, tenants’ rights, expanding parks and fighting crime.

Giraldo focused on economic development and improving quality of life issues.

Moya said he would focus on downzoning the district if elected and suggested establishing a Web site clearly listing each Council member’s funding allocations.

Pena said he would focus on affordable housing and giving young people cultural activities.

“It’s the only way we’re going to stop the spread of gangs and violence,” he said. “What Helen Sears has done, especially in the Lefrak City youth community, we can take that as a model and say, ‘Hey, we can do this.’ ”

Dixon said the demographics of the Council district are changing from the predominantly African−American makeup of past decades to a largely Latino population, which he said he has been courting.

“I think that you need the trust of an entire community,” he said. “This is nothing against my opponents. I know that they’re probably great people, but I’m noticing that the people in my particular area are not familiar with them, whereas I’m familiar with this area and the Corona side.”

Ferreras appears to be the only candidate with the backing of Council members and the Working Families Party.

Pena said he was working on securing some endorsements from civic groups and unions.

“We’re knocking on doors, we’re meeting with people and I think we’re going to do very well,” he said, noting his claim to political fame was helping Assemblyman Jose Peralta (D−Jackson Heights) get elected in 2002.

Reach reporter Jeremy Walsh by e−mail at jwalsh@timesledger.com or by phone at 718−229−0300, Ext. 154.

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