Steven Raga announces bid for New York City Council seat

Photo courtesy of Raga for Queens

2 other Fil-Ams running as well 

THREE Filipino Americans are attempting to break the glass ceiling in New York City politics, running for city council posts in the upcoming June primary elections.

Steven Raga is running for District 26 (Queens), Deirdre Levy for District 35 (Brooklyn), and Marni Halasa for District 3 (Manhattan).

Raga announced his run on Sunday, Feb. 21 through a Zoom event attended by about a hundred community leaders and supporters.

“I feel like this is the right time, with all the attacks on our community and to see our elders suffer, it hit home. After the mayor played it down, a lot of people in our community encouraged me to run,” Raga said after the announcement.

“In general, we’re not at the table at a lot of these big decisions,” said Raga, who has worked in the government for years. “Big policy decisions hurt us most, along with that on the budget side. We don’t get as much in proportion to our population, definitely not anywhere near there.”

The 36-year-old Raga has seen up close how community organizations need funding in order to operate and provide social services. More often than not, these local organizations don’t get the funding simply because Filipinos are not represented when it comes to decision-making.

“We’ve been in the margins for too long,” Raga quipped.

The primary election for each party is scheduled for June 22, 2021, the first to use ranked-choice voting after it was approved by a ballot question in 2019.

A total of 29 current city council members are prevented from seeking a third consecutive term due to term limits that were renewed by voters in a ballot referendum in 2010.

Among them are the incumbent city council members where Raga, Levy, and Halasa are running.

As of press time, Levy is in a field of ten candidates while Halasa is running against five other candidates.

Raga is among 21 candidates for District 26, which includes Woodside, Sunnyside, parts of Astoria, and Long Island City.

Raga currently works as the Northeast Regional Manager for Policy & Advocacy for the Susan G. Komen Foundation where he oversees healthcare legislation in 11 states. He hopes that by running, he’d be able to help more.

“The rent is still high even during COVID-19, folks couldn’t afford it anymore. People got hit by multiple pandemics,” he said. “How we can defend the residents in the neighborhood from being homeless and getting evicted? Some of us are a few paychecks away from eviction.”

Most recently, Raga served as Chief of Staff to Assemblyman Brian Barnwell and previously served as Senior Strategist for Multicultural Leadership at AARP. Currently, he is also a NY State Advisory Committee Member for the US Federal Commission on Civil Rights appointed under President Obama, where they have produced reports on policing, education, and prison reform.

Raga has been a member of Queens Community Board 2 since 2016 and currently sits on the boards of Woodside on the Move, Queens Pride, and the National Federation of Filipino American Associations (NaFFAA). He is currently Jay Kriegel Fellow for Public Service Leadership at the CUNY Institute for State & Local Governance, and the Founder of Pilipino American Unity for Progress (UniPro) which he founded in Woodside in 2009.

At the announcement over the weekend, community leaders such as former Ambassador Mario de Leon and Loida Lewis expressed their support and said Raga is well prepared for the post and described him as a competent and credible leader. (By Momar G. Visaya/AJPress)

Momar G. Visaya
Momar G. Visaya

Momar G. Visaya is the Executive Editor of the Asian Journal. You can reach him at momar.visaya@asianjournalinc.com.

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