NEW YORK–Should he win the Sept. 14 Democratic primary for New York State Assembly’s District 39 (Jackson Heights-Corona), Francisco Moya could become the first Ecuadorean-American to be elected to office in the U.S.
Moya, who took a leave from the public affairs division of Cablevision in order to run for the seat vacated by current State Senator José Peralta, is not taking the race lightly. The 36-year-old businessman, community activist and life-long Queens resident is bracing for battle against the politically-experienced Hiram Monserrate, and counting on supporters to turn up at the polls.
“I’m sure we will win,” he told Fi2W. “We are prepared, but we need to get everyone out there to vote.”
Moya’s opponent was expelled from the N.Y. State Senate after he was convicted of a misdemeanor assault on his girlfriend with a broken wine glass. Before that, Monserrate defected to the GOP (eventually returning to the Democratic Party) in a coup engineered with fellow Democrat Pedro Espada, antagonizing many in his party. He is attempting a comeback via the Assembly election.
Moya has the backing of the Working Families Party, and has received support from those who were horrified at Monserrate’s domestic violence conviction. At an August 28 rally near the Jackson Heights post office, Democratic women leaders closed ranks and called on women in the community to show their power by sending Moya to the Assembly.
“Moya is committed to women’s issues,” said State Sen. Liz Krueger of Manhattan, citing his record on leading the creation of a women’s health clinic at Elmhurst Hospital. “His is a record on women’s issues we can be proud of.”
“He is the breath of fresh air we need in Albany: young, handsome and hardworking,” U.S. Congresswoman Nydia Velasquez said. “He was brought up to respect the dignity of women.”
New York City Councilwoman Julissa Ferreras’ presence at the rally was particularly significant. She and Moya battled in the City Council election of 2009. All that’s in the past, she said, as she urged women of the community to get “smarter” and “not to allow the wrong person to get elected.” She said Moya has worked to get better healthcare for women in his district.
Assemblywoman Joan Millman hailed Moya as a true Democrat: “one who will not flip flop, who will not be this one day and that the next.”
While the women leaders conceded that Moya enjoys huge popularity, they said it should not be a reason to stay complacent and take the primary for granted. Velasquez said voter turnout will define the election.
“If you stay home, we get the status quo,” she warned. “It is important for Latinas on Sept. 14 to, instead of watching soap operas and telenovellas, go out and vote.”
There was no mention of Monserrate’s name throughout the rally. Millman made the facetious reference to him as “he who shall not be named.”
State Sen. Diane Savino of Staten Island said, “If you want to know how an official will treat women, look at how he treats the women around him, his wife, his mother. Francisco Moya treats his mother, his wife with respect.”
Moya introduced his mother Maria to the crowd, praised her as the woman who taught him “great values.” He pledged to restore dignity and integrity to the New York Assembly and to continue being an activist his Queens district and Ecuadorean community could be proud of.
“I hope to be the first Ecuadorean to be elected in the state and in the whole country,” he told Fi2W.
Moya said his community involvement began at age 15, when he led a street cleaning project with the Corona Gardens Neighborhood Association.
A former aide to Governor David Paterson, Moya is running on a platform of job creation, increased funding for schools, quality health care for seniors and justice for immigrant families. He is an advocate for Latino immigrant rights, and spoke out against the fatal 2008 racially motivated attack on Ecuadorean immigrant Jose Sucuzhanay of Brooklyn.
Long-time District 39 resident Michael Anaya agreed that Moya is indeed the more popular candidate, but said Monserrate cannot be ruled out just yet. Anaya said Monserrate continues to enjoy the support of older-generation Latinos as well as religious leaders because of his faith-based platform.
“Many believe the incident between Monserrate and his girlfriend was a private matter, something between the two of them,” Anaya said. It is these demographics, he added, that are usually motivated on election day.
The winner of the Democratic primary will face Republican candidate Humberto Suarezmotta, who is an immigrant for Colombia.