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Progressive Candidate Juan Ardila Wins 37th Assembly Seat

Juan Ardila, Candidate Forum for 37th District Assembly Race (Photos by Michael Dorgan, Queens Post)

Juan Ardila won the Democratic primary for the 37th District Assembly Race (Photo by Michael Dorgan, Queens Post)

June 29, 2022 By Czarinna Andres

Juan Ardila, a Maspeth native and the only progressive in the race, has won the Democratic primary for the Assembly District 37 seat that covers Long Island City, Maspeth, Ridgewood and Sunnyside.

Ardila, who was backed by a number of high-profile progressives such as Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, won 44 percent of the vote in a race where the three other more-moderate candidates split the vote.

Brent O’Leary brought in 26 percent of the vote; Johanna Carmona 20 percent; and Jim Magee 10 percent.

The candidates were vying for a vacant seat that Assembly Member Cathy Nolan has held for 37 years. Nolan announced earlier this year that she is retiring and did not seek re-election.

Juan Ardila wins the Democratic primary for the 37th Assembly District with 44 percent of the vote (Source: Board of Elections)

Ardila, a staffer at the Legal Aid Society who had worked in Brad Lander’s council office, ran a campaign focused on issues such as affordable housing and climate change.

“I’m running for State Assembly because Queens residents deserve affordable housing, improved public transit, and a plan to combat climate change,” he said when he announced his run. “In Albany, I will be a champion for our seniors, our workers, and our tenants. I am excited to fight for a better future for all New Yorkers.”

Ardila had an impressive list of endorsements including Ocasio-Cortez, City Comptroller Brad Lander, State Senator Jessica Ramos, State Assemblywoman Catalina Cruz, City Council Members Tiffany Cabán, Shekar Krishnan and Jennifer Gutiérrez, and Queens Borough President Donovan Richards. There were many others.

He also got the backing of the New York Working Families Party, which issued a statement shortly after his victory became apparent.

“We’re thrilled to celebrate Juan Ardila’s victory tonight,” said Sochie Nnaemeka, the director of the New York Working Families Party. “Juan will be a strong voice for working families in the 37th Assembly District. Our party worked shoulder-to-shoulder with the campaign to contact voters and elevate the critical issues in this race. We’re looking forward to partnering with Juan to strengthen tenant protections, protect immigrant New Yorkers, and win guaranteed health care for all.”

The campaign had energy, with Ramos and Cruz out campaigning for him on Skillman Avenue Tuesday.

Ardila, who unsuccessfully ran last year against Bob Holden in the Council District 30 seat, did overcome some obstacles. He was subject to negative mailers from the lobby group called Common Sense New Yorkers, which was funded by big business, that accused him of wanting to defund the police. He was also subject to criticism over his driving record—where he racked up multiple violations—and some social media postings that date back to his teenage years.

The race represented another blow for Brent O’Leary, a community organizer and attorney, who had made two other attempts to be in political office.

O’Leary, a Long Island City resident, ran unsuccessfully for city council last year as well as in 2008.

He came to the race with a long history of community organizing in the area. He formed the Hunters Point Civic Association a decade ago and is a member of the Sunnyside Kiwanis and the Long Island City Lions Club. He is also the board president at Woodside On the Move.

But O’Leary was one of three moderates running in the race.

Carmona, an attorney and lifelong Sunnysider, fared well for a political newcomer. She had the backing of Nolan, the Ridgewood Democratic Club, as well as from Rep. Gregory Meeks and a number of assemblymembers from across the city. She was also supported by the Police Benevolent Association of the City of New York.

Meanwhile, Magee, a private practice attorney and also a political newcomer, called for the bail reform laws to be changed and for taxing the wealthy as a means to address the disparity in the state. The lifelong Sunnysider issued a statement late last night.

“I’ve called Juan Ardila and congratulated him on a well-earned victory. And Johanna Carmona and Brent O’Leary on a hard-fought race.”

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