Catalina Cruz (LNY 28) recently made history by becoming the first DREAMer elected to New York State Assembly. We spoke with her about her decision to run for office, getting written up in Breitbart, and how she takes her Coro training to work with her today.
When did you make the decision to run for office? What would you say to others who are considering the same?
I had always thought I would run for office, it was just a matter of when I would do it. When I thought about running for office, I thought it would be 10 or 15 years from now. Last year, the seat in my district became vacant and I was encouraged to run by City Councilmember Danny Dromm.
I could have stuck to my original timeline and said no, I’ll do it in 10 or 15 years, but in that time my opportunity could have come and gone. If you are thinking about running for office, do your community work and your political work now. But if an opportunity arises before your timeline, don’t let it go just because it’s not the timeline you originally thought.
Your campaign got national attention when you became the first DREAMer ever elected to the New York State Assembly – and only the third DREAMer in the country to be elected to public office. You have been working in New York politics for a while, but what was it like to get that level of national attention?
It has been a very humbling experience. I came from very humble beginnings, where I never thought I would go to college at one point, never thought I would go to law school. So I also never thought I would be on a national TV show like Samantha Bee, or that NBC was going to cover my story. It just never occurred to me – and then it happened. The majority of the national coverage has been very positive. I even had a story on Breitbart, which was surprising, but it’s almost like a badge of honor.
What lessons from your Coro year do you apply to your work?
“You don’t know what you don’t know” is the model I live by. One of the things that I did throughout the entire campaign was ask questions. One of the complaints people often have about politicians is that they think they know everything. I have a background in immigration law and advocacy, so I’m an expert in that, but I don’t claim to know everything about every issue. So I talked to the experts and the stakeholders, I listened to what the community wanted and needed and what the experts were saying about the right policies to stand with, and that’s how I made my decisions.