Jax Hts district leader race grows heated on Facebook

By Sarina Trangle

This is not your mother’s Democratic district leader race.

As Jackson Heights’ District Leader Jessica Ramos and her Queens Democratic Party-backed challenger handed in petitions to run for the unpaid party position this week, gripes about campaign-related Facebook activity swept through Queens.

Ramos posted on her Facebook page last week “Palestine” beside a pink heart symbol, eliciting questions about why she had only hinted at support for Palestine.

While on the topic of social media, Ramos pointed out that the Dominico-American Society of Queens, a nonprofit assisting low-income minorities where her opponent Yanna Henriquez works, posted about an immigration-related event and linked to the Facebook account of Henriquez’s campaign.

Nonprofits are barred from participating in political campaign activity.

Ramos, currently one of four elected district leader by registered Democrats in state Assemblyman Francisco Moya’s (D-Jackson Heights) territory, collaborates with fellow district leaders to help select the Queens Democratic Party’s leader and nominate civil and surrogate judges.

Ramos said her Facebook post was a reaction to a series of photos she saw July 9 of damage and injuries to people of various faiths. She described herself as “not anti-Palestine, not anti-Israel, but anti-violence.”

Ramos said she would like to see the cease fire discussed by Egyptians come to fruition and the United States support similar efforts.

Several commented on Ramos’ post, including one woman who noted she was going to increase her donation and another user who asked where to contribute to the campaign.

Rabbi Isaiah Koenigsberg, of Young Israel of Jackson Heights, said he is not politically active or involved with any party, but was concerned by the post.

“She evidently takes the Palestine cause,” he said.

Ramos said she had concerns about Facebook activity, too, particularly a post by the Dominico-American Society, where Henriquez is program director and her husband works as executive director.

The nonprofit published a photo of a press conference it attended with U.S. Rep. Grace Meng (D-Flushing), Moya and Henriquez and tagged the Friends of Yanna Henriquez page.

“They’re using Facebook to promote her candidacy,” Ramos said, noting the organization has received funding from local elected officials.

The Dominico-American Society did not respond to requests for comment.

The race has mobilized the county establishment behind Henriquez while pushing some organized labor groups to align with Ramos, who works for a coalition of unions called Build UP NYC and whose husband works for United Food and Commercial Workers Union Local 1500.

The New Visions Democratic Club, which Ramos hails from, noted in a newsletter that Henriquez is secretary-treasurer of the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of Queens, whose leadership has indicated support for Walmart coming to the city.

Meghan Tadio, Moya’s chief of staff and a volunteer for Henriquez’s campaign, said the candidate would not back Walmart opening shops in the five boroughs.

Ramos also claimed Marcello Testa, who filed unspecified objections to signatures on her petitions, was a friend of Moya’s.

Ramos’ campaign reported to the state Board of Elections that it had raised $8,720, including $750 from UFCW Local 1500, where her husband is employed, and $1,000 from 32BJ SEIU, a property service union affiliated with her employer.

Her campaign has spent $4,527.47, mostly on campaign literature and petition-related work.

BOE filings show Henriquez has amassed $10,786, including $3,500 from Dominico-American Society Board Chairman Joseph Awad, an attorney, $1,500 from his law firm and $4,100 from Moya’s campaign committee.

Her campaign did not report spending any money yet.

Reach reporter Sarina Trangle at 718-260-4546 or by e-mail at stran‌gle@c‌ngloc‌al.com.

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