February 6, By Hannah Wulkan
State Senator Jose Peralta spoke to hundreds of constituents on Friday night, many of whom were outraged, on his decision to leave the Democratic Party in favor of a splinter group.
Peralta held a town hall at the Jewish Center of Jackson Heights Friday to explain why he defected from the Democrats to join the Independent Democratic Conference. Upon his arrival, he was greeted with boos and angry constituents calling him “traitor” and threatening to vote him out of office.
The IDC is a group comprised of breakaway Democrats. With Peralta joining its ranks, the IDC now has a total of eight members in the 63-member state senate. The IDC has joined forces with the GOP and have formed a majority coalition.
“Many of us became frustrated with the way things were going in the State Senate. Then came the Trump administration, and as we know, we cannot sit on the sidelines when it comes to this administration,” Peralta said, comparing the IDC to other left-wing movements that were dissatisfied with the Democratic Party, such as the Bernie Sanders movement during the 2016 presidential campaign.
Through several interruptions from angry constituents, Peralta also addressed a story in the New York Post claiming that he joined the IDC to get a bigger stipend to cover his debts.
He called the story “fabricated” and insinuated that the Democratic Party had planted the story to attack him for leaving. He also pointed out what he viewed as discrepancies in the story, such as it not taking in to account his wife’s salary or his financial disclosures that will be released soon that he claims will show he is not in as much debt as the Post said.
During the question and answer session, many constituents accused Peralta of turning in to a Republican, after they voted for him with an expectation of a progressive agenda, though Peralta repeatedly stated that he is not a Republican.
“We didn’t send you to Albany to occasionally caucus with the Democrats and caucus with the Republicans when that was helpful. We sent you to be part of a team and we need you on that team,” one resident said.
“The reason that I am part of the Independent Democrats is to be part of a team to stop these ridiculous executive orders and negative and ridiculous things that are going to trickle down from the federal government,” Peralta responded.
Hundreds of protesters also lined the street outside the town hall, forcing Peralta to exit out of a back door when he left.
As he exited to his car, protesters booed and shouted at him, and police had to hold one woman back as she tried to approach his car.
Leading up to the town hall on Friday Peralta tweeted many of the main points of his speech, asking that his constituents “keep an open mind.” On Saturday, he tweeted that as a lead sponsor of the DREAM Act, he will “not stop until Dream becomes a reality,” addressing one concern brought up by constituents at the town hall.