The 39th Assembly District residents may see not one, not two, but three debates for the State Assembly seat.

    State Assemblywoman Ari Espinal

    State Assemblywoman Ari Espinal (D-Elmhurst, Jackson Heights, Corona) put out a call on Tuesday for her two opponents to debate in each of the district’s neighborhoods. These debates would be organized by “impartial organizations and at neutral locations,” according to a press release.

    “A debate is an important opportunity for candidates and officials to prove their ability to deliver for the community and discuss their views and experiences. I welcome the chance to engage with my opponents and demonstrate to voters why I should be re-elected in September,” said Espinal.

    The call comes after Espinal did not attend a debate last week organized by the New Visions Democratic Club and the Lesbian and Gay Democratic Club of Queens. Her two opponents, Catalina Cruz and Yonel Letellier Sosa, did attend that yet the Assemblymember’s absence was notable to organizers and residents.

    Catalina Cruz

    Cruz, an attorney, felt “encouraged” with Espinal’s desire to have debates in the district and looked forward to a discussion on the district’s issues. Yet she preferred such a decision be left to community members, rather than decided by elected officials.

    “Our voters deserve a robust democratic process to engage each candidate in the time and manner that is needed to address their concerns. Candidates should not dictate to the community the content or scope of these debates – that is for the community to decide. We must allow maximum democratic participation by having debates on different topics, in multiple languages, in multiple locations, and accessible at different times,” she said.

    Yonel Letellier Sosa

    Sosa, a community organizer and president of the Association of Latin American Leaders, criticized Espinal’s call as too little, too late after she missed last week’s debate.

    “Not showing up to a very important debate and now trying to compensate by dictating future ones is not the way to go, it’s a cop out. It is the type of arrogance that is very prevalent within the Queens Democratic Party and one of the reasons why I am running,” he said.

    He elaborated that officials should do as much as they can to talk and engage with voters.

    “I did, even though I knew I was going to be asked tough questions. I believe the people deserve to hear our side of the story, regardless of what that may be,” Sosa said.

    The Democratic primary will occur on Thursday, September 13.

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