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Democratic District Leader Ari Espinal announces she will run in the February 5 special election to replace her longtime boss Francisco Moya in the Assembly.
By Bill Parry

A Corona woman has the inside track to run on the Democratic Party line in the April 24 special election to fill the Assembly seat vacated by Francisco Moya. Moya was recently elected to the City Council.

Ari Espinal announced her candidacy for the 39th District Monday, the same day Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced the date of the special election, and she may be handed the Democratic party line as early as Monday when the four district leaders representing Jackson Heights, Corona, and part of Elmhurst will meet and hold a vote, according to the Queens County Democratic Party.

Espinal is one of the four district leaders having served in that position for the last four years. She also spent nearly 10 years working on Moya’s staff before he decided to run for the council seat vacated by Julissa Ferreras-Copeland when she retired. Espinal’s campaign was immediately bolstered by Moya’s strong endorsement.

“As a lifelong resident of Central Queens, I understand the challenges facing our diverse and growing community,” Espinal said. “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. Now, more than ever before, our state leaders must be a bulwark against the hate and divisiveness coming from the Trump extremists in Washington. I am ready to continue making New York a progressive beacon for our nation. Closer to home, I will be an aggressive advocate to solve local neighborhood issues, making our corner of Queens a great place to live, raise a family, and retire.”

Espinal called Moya a mentor for decades, one whose legacy she is eager to continue.

“We need leaders like Ari to fight for us in Albany because she truly understands the issues facing Queens families and seniors,” Moya said in his endorsement of Espinal. “Ari will stand up for all working families, immigrants and New Yorkers.”

The Queens County GOP has not decided on a candidate for the April 24 special election.

“I have been in touch with the district leaders in the Assembly District, since it is ultimately up to them and their committee members to field and chose a candidate,” Queens County Republican Party Chairwoman Joann Ariola said.

Jackson Heights attorney Catalina Cruz, 35, a former Ferreras-Copeland Chief of Staff, announced she was running for Moya’s seat following the governor’s proclamation Monday.

“Unfortunately, the special election process for the State Assembly does not allow for Democratic primary voters to decide who represents them on the Democratic Party ballot line,” Cruz said. “I am proud of the coalition we are building, my vision for the future, and my experience in getting things done. I look forward to earning the support of our community when they vote in the real election on Tuesday, September 11th.”

Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at bparry@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 260–4538.

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