When Johanny Cepeda-Freyitz was first approached about running for the Pennsylvania’s House of Representatives via its 129th District, all she could think about was God and her dad, Luis.

Luis had a motto in life, and it’s one he passed down to his daughter that she’s carried to this day. 

“Querer es poder.”

“When there’s a will, there’s a way.”


Johanny Cepeda-Freyitz is one election win away from being the first Democrat to rep PA’s 129th District in Harrisburg.

He was one of 14 kids in his family, born in the Dominican Republic. Luis was middle of the pack age-wise, and true to his motto, was the “go-getter” of his siblings, according to his daughter, who recently sat down with AL DÍA to talk about her journey to politics.

At seven years old, that meant shining shoes to help his parents afford plantains they’d boil to feed their children. Luis also dropped out before reaching middle school because he needed eyeglasses to participate, and his parents couldn’t afford them.

When Luis was 19, he came to New York City and began work in a factory. It was one of the many jobs a young Johanny would see her dad take up to support the family.

Her mom, Ana, also had that same fierce, independent streak. Also born in the Dominican Republic, she grew up in similar circumstances to her eventual husband as the youngest of 16 kids. When her parents couldn’t afford to send her to a school she was adamant about going to, Ana also dropped out. But that wouldn’t be the end of her education career.

She moved to the U.S when she was 18 on a mission not to be like the other women in her family.

“She didn’t want to be a housewife or a stay-at-home mom like all her siblings. All of the women, all her sisters, were all stay-at-homes,” said Cepeda-Freyitz. “She was like: ‘No, I’m breaking the mold.’”

Ana went back to school, got her GED, learned English, and eventually landed a job with then-Chase Manhattan Bank. She also met Luis along the way, and started a family that settled in Washington Heights, New York City.

That same drive Ana demanded of herself, was also passed on to her daughter, even if it drove Johanny insane more than a few times

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