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2022 Election Profile: Assembly Candidate Ramon Cando

Ramon Cando, a Democratic district leader and proud member of Laborers Local 78, is one of two candidates in the running for the New York State Assembly’s 30th District—representing parts of Elmhurst, Woodside, and Maspeth.

Cando, 50, champions his role as part of a 3,200-member labor union of asbestos abatement and hazardous waste handlers in New York City, Long Island, and New Jersey.

He will be running a contested primary against Steven Raga in the upcoming June 28th Democratic primary to try and fill the seat of outgoing State Assemblyman Brian Barnwell, who announced back in April that he would not seek re-election this year.

Public safety is a top priority for Cando, who said that the recent uptick of crime over the past two years has led him to run as a “common sense Democrat” with goals of repealing bail reform and granting judges the power to determine how dangerous defendants are. He also opposes the “defund the police” platform, insisting that the NYPD budget should be increased.

“Every single day there’s a shooting,” Cando told The Queens Ledger in a one-on-one exclusive. “I am really concerned that we’re getting used to it.”

Cando also carries the endorsements of City Councilman Robert Holden and U.S. Rep. Tom Suozzi.

Previously, as the District Leader for Assembly District 35, Cando earned 2,148 votes (58 percent) in the 2020 hyperlocal election, defeating James Fogle for the position.

In his capacity as a District Leader for the past two years, Cando says he helped distribute face masks, PPE equipment, and information about the vaccine in his Elmhurst community.

Cando, who immigrated from Ecuador in the 1990’s, points to his post-financial career in labor organizing as a factor into his decision to run for State Assembly.

“As a member of my union, I’ve learned how to organize my people,” Cando said.

While door-knocking within the district, he says he often meets constituents who are only interested in voting in the Presidential election. He stresses the importance of local races to residents in his district with the hope of earning their vote.

Cando’s pathway to Albany goes through new areas of the district that have been and are currently represented by other, more progressive, hispanic candidates, such as Catalina Cruz (AD39) and Jessica Gonzalez-Rojas (AD34).

The political newcomer sees an opportunity to bring out a more traditional latino vote, focusing his campaign run on crime and homelessness throughout the district.

Cando argues that many progressive avenues of public safety reform, including investments in city schools, and social services, may need 20 years to see results.

He says the younger generation of latino progressives are very passionate, but aren’t learning from what happened to countries like Venezuela, which went from one of the wealthiest Latin American nations in the world to a majority of its population living in poverty.

“The younger people — the progressives — these are the new socialists,” Cando said. “Why take money from our police officers? New York City is already one of the most expensive cities in the world.”

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.

2022 Election Profile: Assembly Candidate Brent O’Leary

Correction: Eugene Noh does not work as campaign advisor for O’Leary. O’Leary also did not hire Won’s team of field operators in his run for AD37.

Brent O’Leary, one of the founders of the Hunters Pont Civic Association and President of the nonprofit organization Woodside on the Move, announced his bid for the 37th Assembly district seat, currently occupied by outgoing Assemblywoman Catherine Nolan.

Nolan, 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.

O’Leary, 52, has been working as an attorney for over 25 years. He was formerly a senior associate at White & Case, one of America’s top law firms, where he specialized in business and financial law.

He previously ran for office in the 2021 Democratic primary election, finishing third among 15 candidates in the running for the New York City Council district seat formerly occupied by Jimmy Van Bramer, losing to political newcomer Julie Won.

“My campaign is going to be run much more professionally this time,” O’Leary said, highlighting what he plans on doing differently.

O’Leary said he considers himself to be an “old school” FDR democrat, running a more moderate-leaning campaign than some of his more progressive opponents like Juan Ardila.

“We have different views on how you get things done,” O’Leary said in an exclusive interview with The Queens Ledger, regarding the three other candidates vying for Nolan’s Assembly seat.

A major proponent of his campaign focuses on providing quality paying jobs, providing a safety net for those who cannot afford private health care, providing quality education for district students, and improving public safety within the community.

“I am capable, caring, and committed,” O’Leary said about representing his community in Albany if elected.

O’Leary says that if he is elected to office he would look to address bail reform, establishing criteria for judges to determine whether or not to keep violent criminals behind bars; housing affordability and rent, promoting homeownership as an investment in the community; and education, which he feels should be left up to the decisions of the Mayor and not Albany lawmakers.

Apart from his work with local nonprofit organizations and civic groups, O’Leary has pitched in by coordinating with community churches to organize emergency food pantries and is working closely with the Hour Children program, dedicated to helping children of those incarcerated at Riker’s Island.

In preparation for the upcoming Democratic primary election on June 28th, O’Leary is canvassing door-to-door across the district, sharing his campaign message and speaking with potential constituents about the issues that matter most to their community.

O’Leary will appear on the ballot against candidates Juan Ardila, Johanna Carmona, and Jim McGee. Stay tuned to The Queens Ledger for election coverage and more to come.

Assemblyman Barnwell will not see re-election

New York State Assemblyman Brian Barnwell recently announced that he does not intend to seek re-election next term.

“It has been a true honor to serve and I will never forget that I owe everything to the kindness of the people who allowed me to serve as their representative,” Barnwell announced on Twitter. “Just like any other job, you deal with various things you do not like and then one thing is the final straw that makes you decide to move on.”

The Queens Ledger recently caught up with Barnwell, whose district includes Maspeth, Middle Villiage, Woodside, Sunnyside, and parts of Elmhurst and Astoria, to help shed some light on his recent decision.

“What it boils down to is that people would rather play politics than solve the real problems we are facing,” Barnwell said in a message. “The recent budget was the final straw for me. We see all the gun problems and innocent people being killed around the city and the country. We need to be strong on that issue.”

Barnwell indicated that one of his biggest efforts as a state legislator was the ability to have illegal possession of a firearm, in its own right, be considered for bail.

“It doesn’t mean that bail would be set, but the Judge should have that option,” Barnwell continued. “It was denied and I found that unacceptable.”

He also expressed his frustration with city agencies, which he said: “do not want to do their job.”

“The number of no heat and no hot water complaints at NYCHA that went ignored time and time again was another truly unacceptable thing,” Barnwell said. “It is just a whole host of various issues with the government. I did my best to solve these problems during my time in the Assembly.”

In regards to plans following his tenure in politics, Barnwell said he doesn’t have any as of right now, except to finish the term.

According to City & State the local Democratic committee selected Steven Raga, executive director of Woodside on the Move and Barnwell’s former chief of staff, to run for open seat. He will square off against Ramon Cando, a Democratic district leader from Elmhurst and business manager of Laborers Local 78.

Ardila to make bid for vacant Assembly seat

Nolan retiring after serving for the last 38 years

BY EVAN TRIANTAFILIDIS

Juan Ardila is running for State Assembly.

The Maspeth native will enter the June 28th Democratic Primary to replace Cathy Nolan, who is retiring after 38 years of service. The 37th District includes the neighborhoods of Long Island City, Maspeth, Ridgewood, and Sunnyside

“Queens residents deserve affordable housing, improved public transit, and a plan to combat climate change,” said Ardila. “Growing up in an immigrant family, I have experienced how important it is to have representation that understands how government can impact our lives.

“In Albany, I will be a champion for our seniors, our workers, and our tenants,” he added. “I am excited for a better future for all New Yorkers.”

Ardila is a first-generation American, the son of a Columbian father and Honduran-Cuban mother. After seeing his mother nearly deported and watching other family members face persecution from gang violence in Honduras, Ardila began his journey to public service.

He earned a B.A. in Political Science from Fordham University and a master’s degree in Public Administration from NYU. He attended St. Adalbert Catholic Academy in Elmhurst before going to high school in Briarwood at Archbishop Molloy High School.

Ardila previously served as a staffer in the office of Brad Lander when he was in the City Council. He also worked at the International Rescue Committee in Manhattan and as a consultant at the city’s Department of Education.

He currently works at the Legal Aid Society.

Last year, Ardila challenged Councilman Robert Holden in the Democratic Primary. He fell 926 votes short of defeating the incumbent, garnering 45 percent of the vote.

Ardila’s Assembly bid has already earned the endorsements of State Senator Jessica Ramos, Assemblywoman Catalina Cruz, and Councilwoman Jennifer Gutierrez.

“Juan draws on his experience in providing legal representation for all New Yorkers, and will bring his unwavering dedication to listen to working families,” said Ramos, “to organize his community around key priorities such as housing infrastructure, increased access to public transportation, and a more inclusive public education system.”

Ardila’s also has the backing of Make the Road Action and Churches United for Fair Housing Action.

“Juan Ardila is a fighter for his community who has stood with immigrant, LatinX, Black, and working-class members of his community in the fight for respect and dignity,” said Theo Oshiro, co-executive director of Make the Road Action. “We were proud to support him before, and we’re proud to support him again.”

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