The bar and dance floor of Club Evolution in Jackson Heights were packed last night with chatty and excited supporters of Catalina Cruz, the Colombian-born DREAMer that beat incumbent Ari Espinal in the Democratic primary for state assembly.
Cruz is the third DREAMer to be elected to office and for many of her voters, her win represents the end of the Queens political machine.
“This is the end of a chain of top-down politics with the replacement of a bottom-up movement,” said Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who stopped by the venue to congratulate Cruz on her victory.
Cruz was raised in Queens after coming to the borough at the age of nine and became a citizen in 2009. She has raised by a single mother who worked multiple jobs to make ends meet. Many of Cruz’s supporters last night said that one of the main reasons they felt such a connection with the assemblywoman was because of her work ethic. According to Cruz, she worked 40 hours a week in college and in law school.
During her time as a civil servant and lawyer in the Cuomo Administration and the office of City Councilmember Julissa Ferrera-Copeland Cruz fought for workers’, immigrant and tenant rights.
“This is a local way to push back against Trump,” said New York City Councilmember Daniel Dromm of Cruz’s win. Cruz decided to start her state assembly campaign once she felt that her community and the causes she had fought for were threatened by President Trump.
After the polls closed at 9 p.m. some looked at their phones for election updates and others glanced at one of the half dozen television monitors on the walls of the nightclub. It was as if Cruz had already won.
“This is a race so there is always going to be some adrenaline,” said Andres P., a long-time friend of Catalina Cruz. He was confident that Cruz would come out on top.
Even Cruz was surprisingly calm as she addressed the sea of supporters swatting away blue balloons and shoving Iphones in the air to take her photo after the race was called.
“It hasn’t sunk in yet,” said Cruz who, has no plans of coasting now that the primary is over. Cruz said that she planned on visiting a supporter named Rita in a senior center in Corona the next morning. “I promised her that after I won I was going to see her.”
For some members of the crowd at Club Revolution, like 17-year-old campaign intern and Jackson Heights local Andres Aguirre, the evening was one that they would always carry with them as a historic event.
“As people of color we are now just realizing that our voices are more powerful than ever,” said Aguirre.