By ARIEL HERNANDEZ
Last week’s Democratic primary election left the borough with both excitement and in shock, as two former members of the state Senate’s Independent Democratic Conference (IDC) lost to progressive challengers.
Tony Avella was defeated by John Liu, the former city comptroller and city councilman, who referred to the IDC as “a cancer of deception and obstruction.” He told the Queens Tribune that the state Senate will now be able to pass more progressive policies.
“The Democratic Party is stronger and the Senate as a body will be stronger because the people of New York woke to this cancer that has been the IDC,” said Liu. “The IDC empowered Republicans to control the Senate. Without the IDC, Democrats would have controlled the agenda in the state Senate.”
Liu specifically pointed to legislation protecting women’s reproductive health, equitable education funding and the expired speed-camera bill as bills now likely to pass.
“But because the IDC traded their control of the Senate to the Republicans, all of those bills never saw the light of day,” said Liu. “Now that the cancer has been removed, I fully expect that these bills will finally come to a vote and will be passed.”
Liu said a Democratic-controlled Senate is important because it will represent the will of voters and will bring back a democratic agenda.
“I am deeply honored that my fellow democrats have entrusted me with this nomination,” said Liu. “I take this responsibility very seriously.”
Jessica Ramos, an activist and lifelong Jackson Heights resident, defeated the other former IDC member, Jose Peralta, winning 55 percent of the District 13 vote. Although Ramos does not have a Republican opponent in the November election, she said her main priority between now and Election Day is to make sure that more Democratic state senators are elected so that the more progressive issues can be brought to the table.
“I’m very optimistic with the rest of the IDC challengers who won and will be joining me come January in Albany,” Ramos told the Queens Tribune. “We’ll be putting up at the forefront the issues that matter most to the working-class New Yorker. I think we [the Democratic Party] are on board to be in a better position to fight for them and those issues. That’s why electing more Democrats in November is so important.”
Ramos, the daughter of Colombian-born parents, said she plans to join the Latino Caucus in Albany.
Beginning in January, Ramos said she will prioritize passing the DREAM (Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors) Act; rent reform; and the reproductive-health act. She will also ensure that funding schools is part of the budget when the session begins.
Ramos not only thanks the community for voting for her, but is also asking that they become active participants in the community.
In a close Assembly race, Catalina Cruz, who was born in Colombia and immigrated to Corona at age 9, made history when she became the first immigrant to win a primary race in New York State.
“It’s an incredible responsibility,” Cruz told the Queens Tribune. “The fact of the matter is just because I got my green card and citizenship doesn’t mean that all the years of suffering and pain and humiliation and hard work and emergency planning just disappears. For me, it’s a huge responsibility. The flag that I wear with pride, with love and with respect is a reflection of who I am and it makes me want to fight that much harder for the folks that are going through what I went through.”
Cruz said she used her past as motivation and fuel to fight for her community.
“When you have to watch your mom cry because she got fired and doesn’t have a salary and didn’t know how to pay rent; when you have to work 30, 40 or 50 hours some weeks to get money because you don’t qualify for college tuition help; when you have to scrape by your entire life; and when you’re forced to live in survival mode, it does something to your character, to your grid, to your need to make sure that if you ever get into a position of power, that you fight so that no one has to live that way,” said Cruz. “That’s what I’ve done.”
In view of the fact that September is Hispanic Heritage Month, Cruz said winning the primary race was a great way to kick off the month.
“We have so many Latinas who are now going to be in office and I’m very proud to be one of them,” said Cruz.
Cruz said her fair complexion, education and the fact that she doesn’t have a heavy accent places her in a position of privilege.
“You have to recognize your privilege, because the fact of the matter is I’m a white-passing Latina,” said Cruz. “If I have all of this privilege, why wouldn’t I use that position to help every single person in our community who needs it? Yes, I had a tough upbringing, but right now, where I am in life, I have privilege. I was able to recognize it and now I can use it to put forth the best fight for our people.”
Since winning the primary, Cruz has been out on the streets of District 39, both thanking voters and informing the community that she is here to fight for them and that she cares about their issues because she sees herself in every one of them.
In the Democratic primary for governor, lieutenant governor and attorney general, the candidates backed by party leadership prevailed. Andrew Cuomo soundly defeated Cynthia Nixon, capturing 64 percent of the vote. In Queens he performed even better, capturing 72 percent of the vote.
In late August, the Queens Tribune polled Democrats in the borough and found Cuomo leading Nixon 60 percent to 15 percent, with 25 percent undecided.
In total, 182,995 Queens Democrats voted last Thursday, nearly triple the turnout from four years ago, when Gov. Cuomo defeated Zephyr Teachout in the Democratic primary.
The closest statewide race of the night was for lieutenant governor, where incumbent Kathy Hochul held off a challenge from New York City Councilman Jumaane Williams, winning by only six points. Hochul, who is no stranger to Queens—having appeared in the borough dozens of times since taking office four years ago—defeated Williams in the borough by a similar margin of six points.
In the race for attorney general, New York City Public Advocate Letitia James held off challenges from Prof. Zephyr Teachout, Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney and Leecia Eve, winning with just over 40 percent of the vote. If James wins the general election in November, which is expected, there will be a special election to fill the public advocate vacancy.
Two incumbent Assembly members fended off primary challenges in last week’s elections. Assemblyman Brian Barnwell (D-Maspeth) beat Melissa Sklarz, a longtime LGBTQ and civic activist, capturing 65 percent of the vote. During the campaign, Barnwell said that housing was the top concern in the district, and boasted that his office had solved more than 2,000 constituent concerns in the past two years.
In the 33rd District, Assemblyman Clyde Vanel (D-Queens Village) bested civic leader Oster Bryan. Vanel won 79 percent of the vote. During the campaign, Vanel told the Queens Tribune that voters in the district prioritized jobs, and he intends to focus on other policies to encourage job creation.
The borough also saw two Republican primaries for state Senate seats. Vicky Paladino easily defeated Simon Minching, with 57 percent of the vote. She will face John Liu in the general election.
And in the 15th Senate District, Tom Sullivan defeated Slawomir Platta, capturing 68 percent of the vote in the GOP primary. He will be up against incumbent Democrat Joe Addabbo Jr. in the general election.