Ardila wins Primary bid for Assembly

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.

2022 Election Profile: Assembly Candidate Juan Ardila

Juan Ardila, a Maspeth native and community advocate, announced his bid for the New York State Assembly’s 37th district, currently occupied by outgoing Assemblywoman Catherine Nolan.

Nolan, whose district whose district encompasses the Hunters Point, Sunnyside, Woodside, Maspeth, and Ridgewood communities in Western Queens, has held the position since 1984. Following the announcement of her retirement, four local candidates have opted to throw their hats into the ring.

Ardila, 28, is a program coordinator at The Legal Aid Society and has formerly worked as a staff member for then-City Councilmember Brad Lander. He has also worked as a consultant for the New York City Department of Education, where he helped oversee the expansion of pre-K, pre-K Dual Language, and 3-K for All.

He previously ran for the City Council’s 30th district and came up just short of unseating incumbent Robert Holden in last year’s Democratic Primary. Ardila garnered 45 percent of the vote, falling just 926 votes short of victory.

Upon announcing his candidacy for the 37th Assembly district in February, Ardila came out with endorsements from State Senator Jessica Ramos, Assemblymember Catalina Cruz and Councilmember Jennifer Gutierrez. He has since earned the endorsement of Assemblymember Emily Gallagher, Councilmember Shekar Krishnan, Councilmember Tiffany Caban, Queens Borough President Donovan Richards, and most recently, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. He is also the endorsed candidate for the Working Families Party.

The progressive democrat says he wants to be able to work with people on all sides of the political spectrum — both to his left and to his right — up in Albany.

“It’s a different league, a different ballpark,” Ardila said in a sit-down interview with The Queens Ledger. “You’re just going to have to be someone who can work with both ends of the party.”

Ardila, the youngest and perhaps more progressive candidate of the bunch, identifies the issues of housing, climate, and healthcare as key concerns for constituents within the district.

Ardila is in favor of universal healthcare and a proponent of the New York Health Act, which would create a statewide single-payer health care system. He is also in favor of the “Green New Deal” and the closing of dirty power plants in the borough of Queens.

He is in favor of legalizing accessory dwelling units, which he says could bring an estimated 100,000 new homes into the city with correct compliance and safety standards, and providing real affordable housing for lower-income residents.

He’s also a supporter of the proposed “good cause eviction” bill, which would expand tenant protection rights against rent hikes in certain circumstances. He admits he’s “a little bit on the radical side” of the issue, maintaining his progressive stance that there is no good reason for an eviction of a tenant.

The first-generation American saw his mother, Lesly, be unjustly denied her residency when he was 17. When her Temporary Protected Status expired, Ardila recalled, she was at risk of being deported. When he came of age and met the criteria to become a sponsor for his mother, Ardila started the process of petitioning for her permanent residency.

It would be years later when both Ardila and his mother would find themselves at the Maspeth Post Office for monumental moments in both of their lives. As Ardila filed and finalized notarized paperwork with the Board of Elections for his first run at public office, his mother would receive her permanent residency in the mail during the same post office visit. Following the good news, the two went to the Georgia Diner on Queens Boulevard to celebrate with some hamburgers.

As the Maspeth native spoke about expanding tenant protections and true affordable housing in his sit down interview with The Queens Ledger, an unexpected visit and an exchange of keys from Ardila’s mother showed a glimpse into the reason why he got involved in politics.

“I think that’s the exciting part,” Ardila said. “We are now getting people from non-traditional backgrounds and people coming from the same life experiences as many immigrant and diverse populations are coming from, who are now getting into [politics]. I think that’s what excited people, even in the City Council race.”

Ardila said he consistently heard he had no shot at competing or winning last year’s City Council race, where he earned 45 percent of the vote. This time around, Ardila is prioritizing constituent accessibility in the leadup to the Tuesday, June 28 election. Ardila can be seen at the Sunnyside Farmers’ Market every Saturdary, making himself accessible to eligible voters and constituents.

It was ultimately some advice from former Councilmember and current President/CEO of the Variety Boys and Girls Club Costa Constantinides, that led Ardila to be even more within reach for constituents of the district.

“He told me just to be yourself, and even if you don’t agree with someone, always be accessible,” Ardila said. “If they want to email you, text you, DM you on social media, respond. There’s going to be a lot of people who don’t agree with you, but just be accessible.”

Ardila will appear first on the ballot against candidates Brent O’Leary, Johanna Carmona and Jim Magee in the Tuesday, June 28 Democratic Primary.. Stay tuned to The Queens Ledger for more election coverage.

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