EDITORIAL: New York State Senate should police its own

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The State Senate must know it has an image problem. It's taken a welcome step toward addressing it by appointing a committee to consider discipline or expulsion for Sen. Hiram Monserrate (D-Jackson Heights). Tried for a vicious attack on his girlfriend, the senator was convicted on a misdemeanor assault charge - for what we all saw on a disturbing videotape. He should face his colleagues' doubts about his qualifications to serve. Representing the people is a privilege, not a right.

Had Monserrate been found guilty of the felony charges originally brought against him, he would have lost his seat automatically. Both he and his girlfriend, Karla Giraldo, claimed the incident was an accident, leaving a judge little choice but to convict on the lesser charge. Either way, Giraldo ended up with nearly 40 stitches on her face.

So far, numerous Democratic officeholders have called on Monserrate to resign. Maybe the anti-incumbent sentiment in New York has correctly convinced them to police their own.

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If the Senate doesn't act, voters will have their say next year. But New York elections seem all but rigged in incumbents' favor. Just getting on the ballot requires a team of legal experts. Campaign finance rules on the state level allow virtually limitless donations - favoring officeholders over challengers. Name recognition, safe districting and member-item cash to spread around the community put a virtual lock on an incumbent's chances.

Until lawmakers can re-tilt this playing field, they need to enforce some standards. hN


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