Will Steven Raga become the first Filipino American in the New York state legislature?

Steven Raga with Congresswoman Grace Meng and other elected officials who have endorsed Raga’s candidacy. Photo from Instagram/@RagaForQueens

THERE’S less than a week left to the New York State primary elections and Assembly District 30 candidate Steven Raga continues to spend his time knocking on doors to introduce himself and his platform.

If his campaign turns out to be successful, Raga would make history and become the first Filipino American to be elected to serve in the state assembly. There are 150 seats in the New York State Assembly that serve two-year terms without term limits.

Raga was a former chief of staff of Assemblymember Brian Barnwell of District 30 who announced last April that he won’t be running for reelection. Raga was thrust into the position when he was selected by a committee to determine who would replace Barnwell on the ballot.

He has since amassed a slew of endorsements from elected officials and community and civic leaders. Among those who believe in Raga are Congresswoman Grace Meng, Congressman Gregory Meeks, State Sen. John Liu and Assemblymembers Ron Kim and Catalina Cruz.

Assembly District 30 has undergone significant change due to redistricting. It currently covers the neighborhoods of Woodside, Maspeth, and Elmhurst, along with parts of Jackson Heights. The district is one of the most diverse in the state and is majority AAPI (Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders).

Raga’s campaign has amassed almost 40 endorsements from elected officials and nonprofit organizations.

“That’s very good and telling of the support that we have across the spectrum of stakeholders and voters, and it’s looking good,” Raga told supporters Tuesday evening, June 21.

His days start with giving out literature and campaign materials at train stops and he goes to the poll sites before meeting with community leaders to put campaign events. He then spends six hours knocking on doors and calling voters.

“We’re still putting in the hard work and we’re not taking anything for granted,” he said. “Although it looks good, we want to make sure that we follow through until the very end and we just want to stay the course.”

Raga was the Executive Director for Woodside on the Move, a social service and advocacy non-profit located in Woodside. Before that, he served as the Northeast Regional Manager of Policy & Advocacy for the Komen Foundation, and before his time in politics, he spent nearly a decade doing non-profit work, including his time as a Senior Strategist Multicultural Leadership for AARP.

He served as Barnwell’s chief of staff for four years. He is also a board member of Queens Pride and the National Federation of Filipino American Associations. Raga is also the founder of Pilipino American Unity for Progress (UniPro).

“From experience, I can tell you issues that everyday residents are facing; I’ve worked with non-profit organizations that are filling vital gaps in providing community resources and services. I was able to develop bonds with so many of my own neighbors while also learning about pertinent legislative issues to Western Queens and the complex relationship between City and State politics,” Raga shared.

He looks forward to proudly wearing a Barong Tagalog on the floors of the New York State Assembly if he gets elected.

Among his top priorities are combating Asian American hate, coming up with a comprehensive measure to protect both tenants and homeowners, and helping small businesses or any businesses that helped especially during COVID.

“I’d also like to see how we can provide more health care access to all individuals in New York state. There’s an act, the New York Health Act that’s not passing and that’s something I would probably be supporting,” he shared.

He added that he also wants to make sure more members of the Filipino community get involved in the political process and go beyond just expressing support.

“We need more Filipino officials in every level of government, in city council and State Senate, in Congress we’ve never had that,” he said. “Our time is now, we just need to wait a few more days.”

Raga is optimistic that his team’s hard work is going to pay off.

“I guarantee that with this support, with this level of excitement and enthusiasm and all of the volunteers coming every day, and crowds and events like this,” he said. “In less than seven days, we will make history.”

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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