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Photo courtesy of Mariela Lombard
Photo courtesy of Mariela Lombard

Catalina Cruz announced that she earned the endorsements of former City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito and former Councilwoman Julissa Ferreras-Copeland on Monday, April 23.

Cruz’s announcement came ahead of the April 24 special election for the vacant 39th Assembly District seating covering much of Corona, Elmhurst and Jackson Heights. Ari Espinal, the sole candidate running in the special election, will fill the seat for the remainder of the calendar year. Cruz is challenging Espinal in the Democratic primaries on Sept. 13.

Cruz will be the first DREAMer to run for office in New York and, if elected, would become the third DREAMer to take public office in the United States.

“I am humbled to receive the endorsements of two incredibly accomplished Latinas from whom I have learned so much about advocating and legislating. I am running for the state Assembly because Albany can do better by electing grassroots candidates with proven track records. I am focused on solving the tough problems our communities face like fixing the MTA, helping seniors afford to stay in their homes, and ending the overcrowding crisis in our schools,” said Cruz.

She likened their endorsements to a “passing of the torch” in that people see “someone who is fighting for them in the same way as these progressive leaders” and make that positive connection.

Cruz has worked with both Mark-Viverito and Ferreras-Copeland in the past and both women have expressed their enthusiasm to endorse her.

“Catalina Cruz has the vision and the experience necessary to become an outstanding member of the state Assembly. I have personally witnessed her passion for social and economic justice and her unique ability to produce results. I’m confident she will accomplish even greater things in the state Assembly and I support her enthusiastically,” Mark-Viverito said.

A Colombia native, Cruz moved to New York at 10 years old with her family. After graduating from John Jay College of Criminal Justice and the City University of New York School of Law, she became involved with local politics. Cruz has had experience as the director of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo’s Exploited Workers Task Force and most recently as Ferreras-Copeland’s chief of staff.

She sent a message to those who are against DREAMers in the United States: “We are just as American as anyone else. We all pay taxes. We all deserve a meaningful chance at creating a better life for our families.”

Cruz added that people in her neighborhood have strongly supported her campaign.

“The community response has been fantastic. There was an incident with my mom at the butcher shop where someone came up to us and said, ‘You’re Catalina Cruz. And you’re her mom!’ because our story has been out there,” she said.

Though she is excited about the positive feedback from her community, she shares that there are challenges on the campaign trail.

“What they don’t tell you about campaigning is how expensive it is. You hear about it but don’t believe it. That takes it out of the hands of the grassroots and the community,” she added.

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