Western Queens Assembly challengers reinforce campaigns with strong fundraising

Photo courtesy of Jenifer Rajkumar for New York

Campaign finance disclosures released last week show how several western Queens Assembly challengers have shored up their candidacy heading into the summer primary.

Jenifer Rajkumar in Woodhaven’s Assembly District 38 made the biggest splash by raising four times as much as her opponent Assemblyman Michael Miller. She was the only one to actually out-raise her opponent, but several other candidates displayed other grassroots accomplishments in their fundraising efforts so far.

Jessica Gonzalez-Rojas, a challenger in Jackson Heights’ Assembly District 34, fundraised within a $8,000 margin of Assemblyman Michael DenDekker. Joy Chowdhury, another insurgent candidate vying for the same seat, came close to DenDekker’s total fundraising as well.

Though Zohran Mamdani, a challenger in Astoria’s Assembly District 36, still lags significantly behind Assemblywoman Aravella Simotas’ total cash on hand, he was able to galvanize about 14 times as many contributions as her.

While January fundraising totals before a summer primary by no means determine the end result, they do provide a measure of how much canvassing and voter outreach each candidate has been doing. The filings show that each of these three candidates have substantially more donors than their opponents.  

While Rajkumar, an Indian-American lawyer, had 191 individual contributions from 178 unique donors, Miller had 60 individual contributions from 60 unique donors, according to QNS’ analysis of the filings. Overall, Rajkumar raised $230,027, while Miller raised $54,419. 

Rajkumar did get a boost from donating $50,000 of her own money to the campaign, but she would have out-raised Miller without it.

Gonzelez-Rojas, a progressive Latina candidate, also reached a greater number of people than her competition. She had 536 individual contributions from 495 unique donors, and incumbent DenDekker had 100 individual contributions from 92 unique donors. Though Gonzalez-Rojas raised $64,711, and DenDekker raised $72,260, she still ended up with about $13,600 less in spending cash than him.

DenDekker faces two other challengers: local activist Nuala O’Doherty and Bangladeshi community organizer Joy Chowdhury, who wasn’t too far behind Gonzalez-Roja’s totals.

Chowdhury’s campaign raised $54,837 and sent out a release sparring with Gonzalez-Rojas by pointing out that a greater share of his donations came from within the district. Chowdhury received about 34 percent of his fundraising from donors within the district as opposed to Gonzalez-Rojas’ 18 percent share of in-district donations. Ultimately Gonzalez-Rojas had more in-district donations total, though. O’Doherty raised $17,572.

In the Astoria district, Mamdani, a Democratic Socialist of America-backed housing organizer, had 1,393 individual contributions from 1,017 unique donors, whereas Simotas had 103 individual contributions from 100 unique donors. Overall, Mamdani raised $51,046 and Simotas raised $69,393. 

Simotas has significantly more in her coffers though. Since Simotas started off the filing period with a large chunk of cash, and Mamdani had none to begin with, she ended up with a total of $107,330 cash to spend, while Mamdani only had $44,823.