Jenifer Rajkumar, a second-generation Indian American lawyer, is expected to be elected into the New York state assembly representing Queens, News India Times reports.
If she wins, Rajkumar will become the first legislator of Indian and South Asian descent in the NY state office.
Rajkumar, whose parents immigrated from India, was raised in Queens, according to her campaign website. Before running for the assembly, Rajkumar was a lawyer and director of New York State’s Immigration Affairs.
“Like many Indian, Bengali and West Indian families, my family immigrated to the United States with just $300 and a suitcase,” she told Queens Eagle. “Our story shows that with hard work, persistence and high aspirations there is nothing you cannot achieve in the United States of America. Now we will bring those same values to caring for all New Yorkers, and improving education, health care and quality of life for all.”
According to the current tally from the Democratic primary provided by News India Times, Rajkumar won 52% of the vote, consisting of in-person and absentee ballots, despite the election being a three-person race.
She also received endorsements from Congressman Ro Khanna, Stonewall Democrats of New York City, Planned Parenthood NYC and more.
Incumbent Assemblyman Michael Miller received 25.38% of the votes. Queens Eagle noted that Miller’s low vote count compared to Rajkumar’s was a “repudiation” of his oft-conservative politics ,which included a vote against gay marriage legalization in 2009.
She will face Republican opponent Giovanni Perna in the general election on November 3 in a heavily Democratic district.
Given this, Rajkumar’s expected win may be a part of what the New York Times speculated as the “nation’s most liberal legislature.”
The New York Times reported there were concerns incumbents would capitalize on disruption created by the pandemic, which would effectively halt canvassing. It analyzed that incumbents could count on a small but royal voter base.
The new wave of progressive challengers were able to tap into “larger population of eligible voters who may have been marginalized or not as civically engaged in past elections” through digital outreach and phone banking.
Rajkumar told Desi Talk that her campaign was able to “achieve the near impossible” of such a wide margin votes between herself and her competitors due to setting up a coronavirus response team which operated in seven languages.
Through running a campaign during a worldwide pandemic, she was able to connect with her constituents closer than before, she said.
“I am humbled and honored to be the first South Asian woman ever to be elected to a government office in the State of New York. But I am certainly not the last one.” Rajkumar told Desi Talk. “We won across all political ideologies and demographics, winning every neighborhood in the district.”
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