A district insider is stepping up in a historic campaign to take the seat of embattled Assemblymember Juan Ardila, whose former allies across Queens have for months called on him to step down after two women accused him of sexual misconduct.

Émilia Decaudin, a 24-year-old democratic socialist, will announce on Tuesday that she is running for the District 37 Assembly seat, she told THE CITY. The district covers parts of Long Island City, Sunnyside, Maspeth and Ridgewood, and is where Decaudin was elected in 2020 as the first openly transgender member of the Democratic state committee. She and Melissa Sklarz are the state’s first openly trans district leaders.  

Decaudin was first elected to the committee in 2018 to represent part of Westchester County. She came out as a transgender woman in 2019 and spearheaded a successful effort to amend state election law to affirm that nonbinary New Yorkers can run for political parties’ county committee positions that require gendered contests, with men and women running separately, a century-old provision meant to ensure women were represented.

A win by Decaudin in 2024 would make her the first openly transgender state legislator in New York. The 24-year-old also would join a growing group of democratic socialist elected officials in western Queens, including state lawmakers Kristen González, Zohran Mamdani and Jessica González-Rojas.

“There were a lot of people in the community who responded to this vacuum of leadership, and were asking me, ‘What’s going on? Like, is this something you’re thinking of doing?’” Decaudin said. She attributed her decision to run to “the lack of leadership in the district right now” along with a need for trans rights legislation and meaningful housing reform in the state legislature.

Decaudin’s campaign comes amid questions about Ardila’s ability to effectively serve his 141,000 constituents following allegations of sexual misconduct from two women — behaviors he apologized for after victims made their stories public, but has since denied and said were consensual after funding an investigation into his own behavior.

Assemblymember Juan Ardila’s freshman term in office has been marred by scandal. Credit: Courtesy of Ardila Campaign

The freshman legislator has in effect been sidelined by the Assembly since the allegations surfaced in mid-March, as his fellow party stripped him of the ability to allocate $250,000 worth of discretionary funding for his district. 

Ardila so far has ignored the calls for his resignation, including from many on the left such as U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and the Working Families Party that endorsed his run in 2022, calling him “a strong voice for working families” then, but now say he should resign and “engage in deep reflection.”

Ardila also did not respond to repeated inquiries about whether he plans to run for the office again next year, but told THE CITY he is “committed to continuing to work tirelessly to ensure my constituents’ voices are heard in Albany.”

As of now, however, Decaudin is the only person in the district who has submitted a campaign finance registration — usually an early indicator of candidacy — ahead of a fundraising disclosure deadline on July 17, according to the state Board of Elections. 

The Long Island City resident and rent-stabilized tenant said she plans on continuing championing trans rights if elected to office, including through policies and programs she said would universally benefit all constituents on issues that often disproportionately affect “trans people by virtue of them being on the margins of our society.”

In practice, she said, that means building more affordable housing, decreasing the cost of living, protecting residents from impacts of the climate crisis, and administering universal social programs rather than ones with specific eligibility requirements to lower the barrier to access — and doing all of that in ways that “develop a culture of collective responsibility.” 

“Those are the questions that regular liberal or progressive legislators aren’t asking. They are trying to do the best that they can now, and that’s great, and I support them,” said Decaudin, who grew up in conservative areas of Westchester County. 

But, she continued, “they’re not operating on the same horizon of like, ‘How do we move beyond this?’ And like, how are we balancing all these concerns with the world that we want to live in at the end? How do we do more than just fighting for the best that we can get today?”

The primary is set for June next year.

Editor’s Note: A previous version of this story said that Decaudin lived in Westchester in 2018. It also said that the primary could move up to May. Those sentences have been corrected.