CORONA — Assemblyman Francisco Moya and Hiram Monserrate — candidates in one of the most contentious City Council races this year — hit the streets of Queens on primary day as they worked for votes in what could be a close election.
Moya, who's spent seven years in the state Assembly representing parts of the council district, campaigned on his name recognition and his accomplishments in Albany. He also highlighted the very public faults of his opponent, who spent time in prison for mail fraud and was arrested for slashing his girlfriend.
Monserrate, who held this council seat before leaving for the state Senate, ran on the idea that things in the district were not as good as when he left it. And he asked voters for a second chance.
"I care for this community, I love this community. This is where I'm going to raise a family, and politics as usual has not worked for this community," he told reporters Tuesday morning outside his campaign office on Astoria Boulevard.
"We're going to win today."
Moya was out just before sunrise, speaking with early voters at High School for Art & Business in Corona, one of two new poll sites for LeFrak City residents after theirs was moved by the Board of Election.
He was joined by Stuart Appelbaum, the president of the Retail Workers Department Store Union — one of the many unions that have backed the candidate with endorsements and donations.
After voting hours later with his parents at St. Leo's in Corona, he said he felt very confident that he would win.
"This is going to be a mandate," he said. "The community is going to speak out against someone who has a violent, corrupt criminal past who has no business being in elected politics."
Assemblyman Francisco Moya greets supporters after voting with his parents at St. Leo's in Corona one Primary Day, Sept. 12, 2017. (DNAinfo/Katie Honan)
Whoever wins will oversee any development of Willets Point, an area with a future in limbo after the court of appeals ruled in favor of a lawsuit looking to block some of the proposed development there.
Since launching his campaign, Monserrate has focused on affordable housing in the district. He said the Willets Point deal struck by Councilwoman Julissa Ferreras-Copeland in 2013, who made a surprise decision not to run for re-election, sold out the community.
Moya has introduced his own plan for Willets Point, which also includes affordable housing.
But to some voters, Monserrate's history was reason enough not to vote for him.
"I'm very familiar with [Monserrate's] past and his record so that didn't take a lot of persuasion," said voter M. Matthews, 64, who declined to give her first name. She lives in LeFrak City and walked to P.S. 13, another new poll site, to cast her vote.
"He was counting on everybody knowing him, he's been around a long time. That's been a path for all the illegal things that he's done, and all the immoral things that he's done."
Ernestine McKayle, 87, said she knew Moya from his time in the Assembly and voted for him as well.
"I voted for Moya because I've been working for him," she said.
Across the district, at a campaign annex for Monserrate's campaign on 99th Street near Roosevelt Avenue, dozens of volunteers donned T-shirts and handed out palm cards for their candidate.
They chanted "Monserrate! Monserrate!" along Roosevelt Avenue, Junction Boulevard, and 108th Street.
His campaign brought in more small, local donations, which he touted as part of his grass-roots strategy. The Monserrate campaign also turned out a lot of campaign volunteers, many who joined him as he went to vote at First Baptist Church on Astoria Boulevard in East Elmhurst.
The church was supposed to be the site of a public debate between the candidates. But it was later moved, then canceled, over concerns that Monserrate was too close to the church's pastor.
Hiram Monserrate walks with his family, including wife Michelle, to vote in East Elmhurst on Primary Day, Sept. 12, 2017. (DNAinfo/Katie Honan)
As he crossed the street to vote, a driver honked and yelled "Monserrate!" as he drove by. Monserrate waved, then turn his hand into a fist.
"Today is a great day for me, my wife, my father-in-law and my family," he said as he walked with his pregnant wife, Michelle.
"God is good."