Governor Andrew Cuomo announced on Feb. 5 that he would hold a special election on April 24 to fill 11 vacant seats in the state Legislature — including the Queens Assembly seat formerly occupied by Francisco Moya.
Moya was elected to City Council to succeed Julissa Ferreras-Copeland, who announced last year that she would not run for re-election, represented the 39th Assembly District, which encompasses Corona, Elmhurst and Jackson Heights.
Cuomo could have called a special election as early as Jan. 1 and was criticized by local groups earlier last month for not doing so. Critics said the vacant seats would leave millions of New Yorkers without a representative and during a time period when the state budget is being discussed.
The deadline to hammer out the state budget is April 1, which means the 39th Assembly District will have no representative while this process occurs. The Assembly is heavily Democratic, while the Republican majority in the state Senate — with two vacant seats left by Bronx Senator Ruben Diaz and Westchester Senator George Latimer — will need members of the Independent Democratic Conference (IDC) to vote with them to pass legislation.
The IDC is a breakaway group of eight Democratic senators that are working in a coalition with Senate Republicans. Though the state Senate has 32 Democrats — now 30 with the vacancies, the IDC allows Republicans to retain the majority.
Catalina Cruz, the former chief of staff for Ferreras-Copeland is running to fill Moya’s Assembly seat. The 35-year-old lawyer graduated from CUNY Law School and is a DREAMer. She was brought to the United States from Colombia when she was 9 years old. Her platform will include improving public transportation, increasing affordable housing and protecting immigrants.
“I want to give a voice to those who all too often have not been heard in government,” she said in a statement. “I am running to fix the MTA, to invest in our public schools, to advocate for immigrants and the LGBT community, and to make New York more affordable.”
Aridia Espinal, a former Moya staffer and a District Leader for four years, is also running for the seat. Espinal officially registered to run with the New York Board of Elections on Dec. 22 and has received donations from current Queens elected officials such as Moya, Congresswoman Grace Meng, Assemblyman Brian Barnwell and from Assembly campaigns like Ron Kim for New York, Friends of Aravella (Simotas) and Friends of Edward Braunstein.
“I am thrilled to announce my candidacy for the state Assembly, and I thank Francisco Moya for his support,” she said in a statement on Feb. 5. “He has been a mentor to me for decades, and I am eager to continue his legacy of delivering for working families. As a lifelong resident of Central Queens, I understand the challenges facing our diverse and growing community. I am the proud daughter of a union family, and I know that our communities thrive when there are good jobs with fair paying wages.”
Moya, who served as Assemblyman from 2011 through 2017, said he was “proud to endorse” Espinal.
“We need leaders like Ari to fight for us in Albany because she truly understands the issues facing Queens families and seniors,” he said. “Ari will stand up for our values and work hard to deliver for us. She is a true champion for all working families, immigrants and New Yorkers.”