Ardila Challengers Split Incumbent’s Former Supporters as Election Approaches – Queens Daily Eagle


By Ryan Schwach

In 2022, then-Household candidate Juan Ardila was a rising young progressive with a City Council bid under his belt and a real opportunity to join a slew of other young progressive lawmakers representing Queens in Albany.

His campaign received some high-profile endorsements from the council’s progressive wing, as well as from some members of the Democratic establishment.

But after allegations of sexual assault against him months after he took office in 2023 left him persona non grata in both Albany and his Western Queens district, his former supporters withdrew their support and have now thrown it into multiple attempts to to dethrone the freshman lawmaker. .

But the coalition that Ardila previously built and rode to victory is not behind just one of Ardila’s two Democratic challengers for his seat; they broke up.

Ahead of the Democratic primary for Assembly District 37 on June 25, elected officials, political groups and unions that once backed, supported and funded Ardila are now divided between Claire Valdez and Johanna Carmona, the two candidates vying to replace Ardila, who himself received the elections. no major expressions of support and significantly less funding than just two years ago.

During his first bid for Assembly in 2022 against Carmona and candidates Brent O’Leary and Jim Magee, Ardila’s support catapulted him to 43 percent of the vote and an election victory. His coalition of supporters was quite broad and included the Working Families Party and the large municipal union DC37.

His supporters came from both sides of the local Democratic bloc, but they are now firmly divided along that line, as progressive groups back the Democratic Socialists of America-backed Valdez, while the more centrist and moderate Democrats back Carmona, who has the backing received from the Democratic Socialists of America. Queens County Democratic Party, just like in 2022.

More progressive, left-wing Adrila endorsers in 2022 included Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Councilmembers Tiffany Cabán and Jennifer Guiterrez, New York City Comptroller Brad Lander, WFP and Make the Road New York.

All of these elected officials and groups have since supported Valdez. They are joined by other DSA Queens elected officials, including Assembly Member Zohran Mamdani and Senator Kristen Gonzalez.

Valdez has also been endorsed by Senate Deputy Majority Leader Michael Gianaris, Planned Parenthood and City Council Progressive Caucus members such as Sandy Nurse and Shahana Hanif.

Other backers of Ardila in 2022 included Borough President Donovan Richards and the major DC37 and AFL-CIO unions.

All three now support Carmona, who is also backed by the teachers union, Stonewall Democrats and state Senator John Liu.

Other Carmona supporters include Assemblymember Andew Hevesi and Ardila’s predecessor Cathy Nolan, who both backed her in 2022 when she came third with just under 20 percent of the vote.

For the most part, Carmona and Valdez have split the endorsements of virtually every major elected and endorsing group in Queens, leaving Ardila in the lurch — most notably several elected officials who supported Ardila in 2022, including Sen. Jessica Ramos and Assemblymember Catalina Cruz , have yet to publicly support a candidate in the race for the seat this year.

“The politics in this race are very clear,” said Democratic strategist Trip Yang. “Valdez is clearly on the left, but Carmona has a larger share of institutional Queens County Democrats who align with the Democratic Party.”

While expressions of support may seem mundane, and may not be fully realized by the general voting public, they are accompanied by financial support and support that could extend beyond the election. They also help get the word out about a relatively unknown candidate.

“Endorsements matter in local primaries because they are an important validator that can strengthen and endorse the favorability of candidates in a given race,” Yang said. “Often, a show of support from an established, well-liked elected official, or a union or advocacy group with many members in a district, can make some difference.”

Both Carmona, a Queens attorney, and Valdez, a union organizer, have expressed their support and in the final weeks of the campaign both say their coalitions will help send them to Albany.

“We’ve had some really great messages of support,” Valdez said in an interview with the Eagle last week. “So I feel like we’re in a really strong position.”

But beyond the endorsements from major unions and elected officials, Valdez has cited her “grassroots campaign” as the real driver of any success she may or may not see at the ballot box.

“The strategy is knocking on the door,” she said. “It was about getting as many volunteers as possible who believe in this campaign and our vision for Queens.”

But while Valdez boasted about the support of everyday Western Queens residents, she also celebrated her coalition of supporters.

“We are fortunate to be supported by organizations and other elected officials who share the same vision for Queens as we do,” she said. “The coalition reflects, I think, mostly progressive organizations, a few unions and, fortunately, overlapping elected officials.”

Carmona, who said she has learned lessons from her first run for the seat two years ago, has similar confidence in her coalition.

“I think it’s beautiful and I think it’s reflective of the neighborhood,” she said. “I think people in the community are really seeing that (the campaign) is getting people involved. I try to make sure people’s voices are heard.”

“It was so exciting to see and people from all different backgrounds really got behind me,” she added.

Endorsements, as Yang said, are good for building recognition and showing candidates’ bona fides as potential elected officials, but the other thing that endorsements bring? Cash.

In that respect, Valdez’s supporters have achieved more than they did for Carmona.

Valdez reported a total of $204,000 in contributions, according to the most recent campaign finance filings. In the same filing, Carmona reported $68,000 in contributions.

While both campaigns have attracted small contributions from locals, both campaigns have seen their endorsers add large amounts of cash.

UAW, the union Valdez works for, gave her $3,000 and Mamdani’s committee gave her $1,000 in January. Both supported her campaign.

Carmona recently received $3,000 from the Hotel and Trades Commission and the IBEW union – both of which supported her. She has also received contributions of more than $1,000 from Friends of Gregory Meeks, a committee supporting the leader of the Queens County Democratic Party, and from the law firm Sweeney Reich & Bolz, the attorneys for the Queens County Democratic Party.

She has also received large sums of money from a number of venture capital owners such as Amanada Elian, Josh Resnick and investor Joel Greenblatt, a major Democratic donor who has given $35,000 in political donations so far this year and $50,000 to Governor Kathy Hochul’s latest campaign .

Valdez has criticized some of Carmona’s contributions, claiming that some of its largest donors represent real estate and financial interests.

With virtually no endorsements, Ardila has lagged behind his two opponents in an important way when it comes to fundraising. He recently raised $4,000 and has about $17,000 left for the campaign.

Most of the contributions he has received for the race have been small, with the exception of a contribution from the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 30 political PAC, which gave Ardila $3,000 in March, a year after sexual assault allegations against him for running were first expressed. public.

The IUOE has not formally or publicly endorsed Ardila, and has also given money this election cycle to Westbury Senate candidate Siela Bynoe, Long Island Republican Senator Mario Mattera, Orangetown City Clerk Rosanna Sfraga and Nassau County Executive Bruce Blakeman .

With just over two weeks before the primaries, all three candidates are looking for the final push, endorsements and funding that will get them over the hill.

Although money, endorsements and ideologies separate Valdez, Carmona and Ardila, Yang sees it as just a two-candidate race.

“This is your classic progressive versus institutional democratic battle,” he said. “And the third wheel here is Juan Ardila, to whom almost everyone has given the cold shoulder.”

AD37 Democratic voters cast their ballots on June 25. Early voting begins on June 15.

Ardila did not respond to requests for comment on this story.