Jackson Heights Assembly challenger centers her campaign launch on healthcare, immigrant rights

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Photo: Max Parrott/QNS

Reproductive health advocate Jessica González-Rojas, an insurgent candidate the Assembly seat in District 34, officially launched her campaign to a crammed bar of supporters on Monday, Nov. 18.

González-Rojas, who has served as National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health executive director since 2006, detailed her platform of healthcare, racial justice and immigration reform.

“It takes a grassroots leader who understands and connects to the experiences and struggles of our community to be an effective representative. We need a leader who will fight for all of us,” González-Rojas said.

González-Rojas will challenge six-term Assemblyman Michael DenDekker in the Democratic primary, joining another insurgent Nuala O’Doherty Naranjo, a Manhattan prosecutor. DenDekker has not faced a primary or general election since he was first elected to represent parts of Jackson Heights, Woodside and East Elmhurst in 2008. 

Her speech framed her campaign as an extension of her work advocating for healthcare access and immigrant rights. 

“This fight is personal,” González-Rojas said, recalling how her grandmother’s struggle with polio after migrating from Puerto Rico pushed her to fight for health justice. 

“It’s because of her story and the story of so many others that are working in unsafe and unhealthy conditions that they’re facing health disparity,” said González-Rojas said. “And I’m ready to take that fight to Albany.”

Linda Prine, a doctor who met González-Rojas through reproductive health advocacy work, said that it was her desire to see González-Rojas help push through a single-payer health act, that brought her out to support her candidacy. The New York Health Act, a bill that would implement single-payer care at the state level, is expected to come up for a vote in the next legislative session.

“If New York State could get single payer health reform, we could show the whole country how good it is, then we could have a wave of states passing it,” said Prine. 

Photo: Max Parrott/QNS

Queens Community District 3, which overlaps with most of the Assembly district, is 66 percent Latino and 60 percent foreign-born. 

In addition to the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health, which specifically works to advance health care, abortion rights and gender justice for Latinas across the U.S., González-Rojas touted her experience as a founding member of New Immigrant Community Empowerment as a cornerstone of her advocacy for immigrants’ rights. 

González-Rojas expressed her excitement that Democratic control in both chambers of the legislature has made it possible to pass sweeping progressive legislation. González-Rojas told QNS that out of the bills that did not make it through last session, she would prioritize a pied-à-terre tax, the “good cause” eviction bill and the New York Health Act. 

“This race is not just about me,” said González-Rojas. “It’s about a whole cadre of us who are bold and progressive and willing to take the political risk to get these things passed.”

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