Newly elected Assemblywoman Ari Espinal (D-Jackson Heights, Elmhurst, Corona), won’t have long to take a victory lap as she is expected to have a bruising primary battle come September.

    That after Catalina Cruz held a fundraiser on Monday night in Jackson Heights that featured distinguished guests─including a former City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito.

    Catalina Cruz

    The event, held at the La Estrella Latina del Caribe restaurant, drew about 30 people and also included former City Councilmember Julissa Ferreras-Copeland, the former council Finance Committee chair. Cruz worked for Ferreras-Copeland as chief of staff.

    “I am humbled to receive the endorsements of two incredibly accomplished Latinas from whom I have learned so much about advocating and legislating,” Cruz said.

    Cruz, an attorney and DREAMer, will likely be Espinal’s strongest opponent. Yonel Letellier Sosa, a community activist and president of the Association of Latin Americans Leaders, also declared his intention to run in the primary.

    Mark-Viverito endorsed Cruz for the State Assembly based on both her vision and experience in government.  

    “I have personally witnessed her passion for social and economic justice and her unique ability to produce results. I’m confident she will accomplish even greater things in the State Assembly and I support her enthusiastically,” she said.

    Ferreras-Copeland, who decided not to run for re-election last year to be closer to her family in Maryland, also gave a strong endorsement to her former employee.

    “Catalina Cruz is exactly the leader we need in Albany to advocate for our community. I have worked closely with her for years and I know she will be a powerful force for justice in the state assembly. For decades, Catalina has been a leader for our community and someone who has fought hard to keep people in their homes and keep families united,” she said.

    The pair also commented about the process for the special election. According to Queens Latino, Espinal was the only candidate on three different lines.

    “Ari is a good person,” said Ferreras-Copeland. “But [she] is not qualified to occupy this position.”

    Cruz anticipated meeting more voters on the campaign trail to share her vision for the community.

    “I’m encouraged by the amount of grassroots support our campaign continues to receive. In the coming weeks and months I look forward to making our case to voters as we offer real solutions to the many challenges we face as a community,” she said. 

    The Democratic primary will be held on Thursday, September 13th.

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