By Alejandra O’Connell-Domenech
Democratic candidate Catalina Cruz is now the first “Dreamer” ever elected to the New York State Assembly after beating incumbent Ari Espinal and Reform Party candidate Bobby Kalotee in the Nov. 6 midterm elections.
Cruz tallied 87.8 percent of the votes in Tuesday’s election, while Espinal garnered 10.4 percent and Kalotee secured 1.7 percent, with 100 percent of the precincts reporting according to unofficial results from NY1.
Cruz previously secured 53.4 percent of the votes in September’s Democratic primary, while Espinal obtained 43.1 percent and challenger Yonel Letellier Sosa tallied just 3.22 percent, according to results from the city Board of Elections.
At age 9, Cruz’s mother brought her daughter to Jackson Heights in order ‘to give her a better life’ and worked selling tamales and empanadas in the neighborhood to support herself, Catalina and her three other children. Cruz, 35, remained undocumented until she married her high school sweetheart 10 years later and received pro bono legal help in applying for citizenship. She became a legal citizen in 2009.
Cruz fought for tenant, immigrant and workers’ rights in her years as a lawyer and civil servant in both the Cuomo administration and office of City Councilwoman Julissa Ferreras-Copeland.
Immigration defense has been a huge part of Cruz’s campaign. Queens is known for its diverse make up with nearly half of the borough’s population being made up of immigrants. Of New York City’s 643,000 undocumented immigrants 246,000 live in Queens. In Elmhurst, a part of Assembly District 39, 71 percent of residents are new Americans.
With the victory in hand, Cruz will represent the 39th Assembly District consisting of Jackson Heights, Elmhurst and Corona — in Albany.