NEW YORK (FOX5NY.COM/AP) - New York State Sen. Jose Peralta died Wednesday night in Queens after a brief undetermined illness, according to reports. The cause of death has not been determined. He was 47.
Peralta's wife, Evelyn, told reporters he had felt pressure behind his ears and headaches for a week or more and had seen a doctor, according to local news outlets. He developed a fever Tuesday and became disoriented and had trouble breathing Wednesday, when he was taken to a hospital, she said. His family believes he had an infection.
"We really don't know what happened," Evelyn Peralta said. "He just took a turn for the worst."
The Democrat was the first Dominican-American elected to the State Senate in March 2010. He represented Jackson Heights, Corona, Elmhurst, East Elmhurst, and parts of Woodside and Astoria in Queens.
A few days before his death, Peralta shared a photo on Twitter of the Thanksgiving turkey drive that he has organized for years.
Over the last nine years, we have distributed over 5,000 turkeys. I've been honored to represent a community of such loving and thriving families. We've made cherished memories together, and I’ve been truly blessed by the families in my community. pic.twitter.com/rm8ZRmrbv7— Senator Jose Peralta (@SenatorPeralta) November 14, 2018
His death came as a shock to many in New York and Albany, including Mayor Bill de Blasio and state Sen.-elect Jessica Ramos, who defeated Peralta in the recent primary. They reacted to his death via social media:
Jose Peralta was a proud son of Queens and the Dominican Republic. He worked his way up from the grassroots, with heart and tenacity. Chirlane and I are both pained by his sudden loss. Our prayers are with his wife Evelyn and his sons.— Mayor Bill de Blasio (@NYCMayor) November 22, 2018
José Peralta is gone too soon. When I met him in 2003 I saw a world of promise for our community & though years later we’d disagree on tackling the issues, I know in his heart he loved his community. He was a true public servant. Strength & love to his wife, sons, and loved ones. pic.twitter.com/r4HhjIAji1— Jessica Ramos (@jessicaramos) November 22, 2018
Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat, called Peralta "a relentless advocate for Queens" who "fought tirelessly to make a difference for others."
State Assembly Speaker and fellow Democrat Carl Heastie recalled Peralta's commitment to public schools, gun safety and immigrant rights.
"His constituents remained his top priority" even after his primary loss, Heastie said in a statement.