When former Assemblyman Francisco Moya won the election for City Council, his seat became one of 11 vacancies in Albany. Last week, Governor Andrew Cuomo called a special election for April 24 to fill those seats.
The Democratic Party will decide who will run in the special election, while the other candidate will have to wait until the September primary to make their case to voters.
On Monday, longtime Moya aide and local district leader Ari Espinal jumped into the race to represent Corona, Jackson Heights and Elmhurst.
“As a lifelong resident of Central Queens, I understands the challenges facing our diverse and growing community,” she 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.”
The Corona native pledged to defend the state from “hate and divisiveness” coming from “Trump extremists in Washington.” Locally, Espinal vowed to improve Corona as a neighborhood for families and seniors.
Espinal’s former boss immediately endorsed her to take his former spot .
“Ari will stand up for our values and work hard to deliver for us,” Moya said. “She is a true champion for all working families, immigrants and New Yorkers.”
Catalina Cruz, who served as chief of staff to former Councilwoman Julissa Ferreras-Copeland, has also jumped into the race. An attorney by trade, Cruz has worked for the City Council and the Cuomo administration in various roles.
She is also a Dreamer. Cruz came to the United States in 1992 with her single mother, and has been undocumented for more than a decade.
In a statement, Cruz said she is running for office to give a voice to those who have not been heard in government.
“I am running to fix the MTA, to invest in our public schools, to advocate for immigrants and the LGBT community, and to make New York more affordable,” she said.
The race can be seen as a proxy battle between two former competitors. Moya and Ferreras-Copeland faced off in 2009 City Council race. Ferreras-Copeland won the seat, and one year later Moya was elected to the Assembly.
After serving two terms, Ferreras-Copeland decided not to run for re-election, citing a desire to be closer to her family. Moya defeated former councilman and state senator Hiram Monserrate for the coveted seat.
“I am proud of the coalition we are building, my vision for the future and my experience in getting things done,” Cruz said.