As residents filled forms in the bustling office of State Sen. Jose Peralta (D-Corona, East Elmhurst, Elmhurst, Jackson Heights, Woodside) for the first day of free tax services, the District 13 representative met with students of Louis Armstrong Middle School. Afterward, he sat a Colombian restaurant to discuss his key motto as a public servant.
“For me, it’s always people over politics,” he said.
Peralta talked about his interest in public service ever since joining student government at Queens College and being a teenage member of the local Corona community board. And since becoming an elected official, Peralta listed three tenets he holds sacred—representing constituents, ensuring access to the American Dream, and including residents in political discussions.
“My constituents over the years have become my extended family,” Peralta said.
Over a year ago, Peralta joined the Independent Democratic Conference (IDC), an eight-member body that is in coalition with State Senate Republicans. Last January, he made the decision because the “political climate demands that progressive legislators take bold action to deliver for their constituents.”
He explained his success since working with the IDC in obtaining more services and resources for those in his district, including over $5 million in state funds for schools and organizations.
Peralta insisted that, despite the change, he is not in favor of conservative policies and stressed his allegiance to progressive ideas.
“I’m a Democrat, always been a Democrat, and always will be a progressive Democrat,” he said.
He explained patience was necessary in achieving deals. He understood this was part of negotiating while in office.
“Let’s say, hypothetically, there were 63 Democrats that controlled the [State] Senate, a super majority. Even with 63 Democrats, you’ll never get a perfect bill because there are so many ideologies and differences within Democrats that you’re not going to get it,” he said.
This year he faces three challengers in a potential Democratic primary this September. A major topic this year is Peralta’s affiliation with the IDC, which disappointed some Democratic officials and voters.
Last month, U.S. Rep. Joe Crowley (D-Sunnyside, Astoria, College Point, East Elmhurst, Jackson Heights, Corona, Woodside, The Bronx) warned Peralta and State Sen. Tony Avella (D-College Point, Whitestone, Bayside, Flushing, Jamaica Estates, Fresh Meadows, Bellerose, Floral Park, Jamaica, Douglaston, Little Neck, Auburndale, Kissena Park, Briarwood) to leave the IDC by March or they will “suffer the consequences.”
“For him [Crowley], it matters, because as the Democratic Party leader, he needs and wants everyone to work together,” Peralta said. “I take his words, first and foremost, serious. I agree with the fact we should all come together.”
Peralta elaborated that he looks forward to working together with the Democrats. He understood that there would be candidates running for seats during a unity process.
“Everyone has that opportunity, but I do think when it comes to times like these, you need several criteria. Unlike my opponents, I have legislative experience,” he said.
He noted his record of offering services, such as immigration and housing attorneys, job fairs, offering school supplies, toy giveaways, and more. Furthermore, he recalled having constituents calling and visiting his office, even those from different boroughs.
This year, Peralta is determined to continue addressing issues while in the state senate. He will focus on the state’s budget to reduce the deficit, increase funding for schools and non-profit organizations, creating annual events for constituents, and programs such as his free tax preparation services.
“It’s not just about tweeting about an issue or saying that’s a problem,” said Peralta. “It’s about rolling up your sleeves and saying, ‘How are we going to do this?’”
The State Senator explained how valuable it is to provide full attention to the issues residents discuss while meeting him. That’s why, as he noted, many constituents return to his office as they understand the level of care they receive while discussing their problems.
“If you can improve their life, even with a smile, that’s what matters,” he said.