Maspeth native Juan Ardila is one step closer to claiming the open seat in the 37th Assembly District, left vacant by soon-to-be retired State legislator Catherine Nolan, who has represented the community for the last 38 years.
The 28-year-old progressive candidate won the 2022 Democratic Primary on June 28, based on unofficial results provided by the State Board of Elections.
Ardila finished the race with approximately 42 percent of the vote—receiving 3,355 votes out of nearly 8,000 local residents who cast their ballots—in a four-way race to represent parts of Long Island City, Maspeth, Sunnyside, Woodside, and Ridgewood.
Opposing candidates: Brent O’Leary, Johanna Carmona, and Jim Magee each put up a valiant effort, taking a combined 54 percent of the vote, but in the end came up short of victory.
O’Leary, a Hunters Point Civic leader and board president of Woodside on the Move, finished second in the election with just over 25 percent of the vote. The 52-year-old attorney previously ran for the New York City Council seat occupied by Jimmy Van Bramer, finishing in third among 15 candidates.
Considering himself the “FDR Democrat” in the race, O’Leary received endorsements from Citizens Union, Voters for Animal Rights, the Asian American Chamber of Commerce and the Stonewall Democrats.
Carmona, an attorney and former Nolan staffer finished the race just short of O’Leary, taking 19 percent of the vote. A political newcomer, her campaign focused on improving the quality of life for residents and educational endeavors including college access programs.
The 32-year-old candidate also carried the Queens County Democratic Party nod, with Congressman Gregory Meeks and Nolan’s endorsement, among others.
Magee, a prosecuting attorney from Sunnyside, finished last with nearly 10 percent of the vote. The former assistant district attorney ran a campaign focused on restoring judicial discretion over bail, wealth disparity, and improving public transportation.
“I thought the district was more concerned about crime than it apparently is,” Magee told The Queens Ledger.
The lifetime Democrat said he reached out to Ardila on Tuesday night and wished him the best.
“I wish Juan the best,” Magee added. “I’ll make myself available to him if he wants to talk.”
Expecting a low turnout at the polls, only 18 percent of the 43,456 registered Democrats living in the district cast their ballots on Tuesday, according to the New York State Board of Elections. The tally also included 252 blank ballots, 28 void ballots, and 10 write-in candidates.
In his previous run for City Council in 2021, Ardila came up short against incumbent Robert Holden, but the overlapping neighborhoods of Maspeth and Ridgewood in the newly-redistricted 37th Assembly district brought out some 2,000 voters who had voted for him in the prior race.
Ardila was endorsed by the Working Families Party, Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, State Senator Jessica Ramos, Assemblywoman Catalina Cruz, City Councilwoman Tiffany Caban and Councilwoman Jennifer Gutierrez, and Borough President Donovan Richards.
On election night, all four candidates held watch parties within a half-mile radius of each other in Sunnyside, as canvassers with each campaign made their eleventh hour pitch to any last-minute voters outside the polling site at I.S. 125.
Ardila declared victory roughly an hour and 15 minutes after the polls closed at 9 p.m., celebrating with a group of supporters at Bar 43, on 43rd street in Sunnyside.
“You all believed in something that was inclusive, beautiful, and diverse,” Ardila said. “And that’s what we fought for.”
In his remarks, Ardila said it had been a dream to see progressive representation in Maspeth.
“Let the record show, on June 28, 2022, Maspeth voted for progress,” Ardila said.
He then thanked the other candidates in the running, saying that he remains hopeful to work with them in the future.
“Everybody stuck to their message, even if we didn’t agree on the issues.”
In the days leading up to Tuesday’s primary election, Ardila came under fire for traffic violations and tickets reportedly issued to a vehicle he has been seen driving around in.
Ardila told The Queens Ledger that he and his team opted to take the high road, deciding to stick to keeping a tight ship and getting their message across to voters.
“I spoke with my team and we decided not to engage in negative campaigning,” Ardila said.
Thanks to some timely advice from Assemblywoman Catalina Cruz, who encouraged running and ultimately winning the race with grace, Ardila managed to pull ahead of the competition without stooping to such tactics.