Astoria Assembly candidate blasts ‘Queens Machine’ for corruption

Courtesy of Zohran for State Assembly

A left-wing insurgent candidate for the state Assembly from Astoria is calling out the Queens County Democratic Party after the Board of Elections removed seven candidates aligned with the New Reformers PAC Thursday.

Zohran Mamdani, a 28-year-old housing counselor for Chhaya CDC, who is the only candidate in the borough to be endorsed by the Queens chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America, blasted the county party in a statement.

“We already knew the Queens Machine was racist and corrupt. Now we’re seeing just how willing they’re willing to go to hold on to power — including risking the health and lives of city workers, candidates for office, and their staff in order to suppress democracy and throw candidates off the ballot,’ Mamdani said. “The machine has brought spurious challenges to the ballot petitions of two South Asian Muslim women running for office in Queens County: Mary Jobaida, running for State Assembly in Long Island City, and Moumita Ahmed, running for District Leader in Jamaica.”

“The challenges are based on the deliberately byzantine nature of the county’s petition requirements, which are designed to be inaccessible to all but party insiders so the working people of Queens are unable to participate in its political life,” Mamdani added.

Both Jobaida and Ahmed said their petitions were knocked off the ballot on technicalities and that they would contest the decisions in court. Mamdani believes this type of chicanery has powered the progressive movement in western Queens that saw the rise of Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and former public defender Tiffany Cabán who nearly defeated Melinda Katz in last year’s race for Queens district attorney.

“The Queens Machine needs to be dismantled, and Astoria knows it,” Mamdani said. “That’s why we’ve supported every insurgent candidate who’s run here over the last three election cycles. We know that New York will never implement the progressive change it needs as long as institutions as corrupt as these go unchallenged.”

Mamdani then shifted his focus to Assemblywoman Aravella Simotas, who he is challenging in the June 23 primary.

“Unfortunately, Astoria is currently represented by leaders with direct ties to the Queens Machine,” he said. “Aravella Simotas was endorsed by them in her first run for office, and they cleared her opponents off the ballot just like they are trying to do now to Mary and Moumita. She backed party boss Joe Crowley against AOC, and she’s using the machine’s fundraisers and consultants to try to defeat our campaign.”

Since she first went to Albany in 2011, Simotas has been a steadfast advocate for ethics reform and gender equality and championed progressive policies to address the needs of working families. She has passed legislation to combat sexual violence, protect the rights of workers, expand access to quality health care, and support small businesses.

Simotas currently serves as Chair of the Assembly’s Task Force on Women’s Issues. Her campaign dismissed Mamdani’s accusations.

“After recently moving to Queens, Zohran has waged a negative campaign rife with falsehoods,” Simotas Campaign Manager Alexa Sheryll said. “Aravella has never challenged anyone’s petitions in her career and has sponsored several laws that changed election rules against the party’s wishes. If Zohran actually cared about electing progressive women he’d be supporting Aravella Simotas, who has authored historic laws on sexual harassment and women’s productive rights.”