By Mark Hallum
Politicians across Queens are eyeing seats and challenging incumbents to lead their home districts in what seems to be a new political landscape in the city following the defeat of Queens County Democratic boss, U.S. Rep. Joseph Crowley (D-Jackson Heights), in June.
The races to watch will be those for seats occupied by former members of the breakway Independent Democratic Conference, such as state Sens. Tony Avella (D-Bayside) and Jose Peralta (D-East Elmhurst), who returned to the mainline party as per a peace agreement between the warring Democrats but face primary challengers anyway.
State Assemblywoman Ari Espinal (D-Jackson Heights), 30, is in a three-way primary to hold on to an office she won in an April special election.
“Our campaign hit the ground running and our petition and fund-raising numbers reflect that. I am proud of my hardworking team of volunteers, and these numbers show that our message is resonating with the community. I have dedicated my life to serving Central Queens, and I am eager to get back to work in the Assembly,” Espinal said.
Espinal filed 3,100 signatures with the state Board of Elections to hold her seat and is facing a primary challenge from Catalina Cruz, an attorney and former chief-of-staff for then-City Councilwoman Julissa Ferreras-Copeland (D-East Elmhurst) until Ferreras-Copeland decided against running for re-election in 2017.
Also on the ballot in Espinal’s district, which covers a thin area from Flushing Meadows to the Woodside border, is Yonel Letellier Sosa, founder of the Association of Latin American Leaders.
Jessica Ramos is challenging Peralta in his district, which stretches from Ditmars to Flushing Meadows Corona Park. She has campaigned heavily on criticizing her opponent for his past membership in the IDC, which was opposed by both mainsteam Democrats and progressives alike for its coalition with Republicans.
Ramos also lent a hand to John Liu, who despite having two members of his former campaign staff convicted for creating straw donors, has risen up to challenge Avella.
Liu launched his campaign July 6 and only had until the following Thursday, July 12, to gather 3,000 signatures, which was accomplished on time.
Avella also faces criticism for his prior membership in the IDC.
State Assemblyman Edward Braunstein (D-Bayside) is getting a Republican challenger in the general election with David Bressler, former president of the board at the Bay Club.
Anthony Pappas will be the Republican nominee for the district won by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in the June primary, though she is still slated to face Crowley on the Working Families Party line in the November general election.
Reach reporter Mark Hallum by e-mail at mhall