Jessica González-Rojas, the likely winner of the race to represent the 34th Assembly District, embarked on a meet and greet tour to get to know her future constituents and neighbors.
González-Rojas leads the current ballot count with 70 percent of the votes and is expected to clinch the race after the Board of Elections finishing counting absentee ballots. Once the results are certified, she would be the new Assemblywoman for District 34, which encompasses the Queens neighborhoods of Jackson Heights, East Elmhurst and parts of Woodside and Corona.
In the district’s crowded primary, González-Rojas won with 42 percent of the votes, beating out the long-time incumbent Michael DenDekker.
“I am thrilled to have won the general election,” González-Rojas told QNS. “I really wanted to make sure that I was a candidate and Assembly member that continued to show up in the community even after my election. So even though we have not been officially inaugurated into the role, we are doing a thank you tour. Thankfully, the weather is beautiful. But really, it’s an opportunity to meet folks, introduce myself, have them join my email list and learn more about what we are planning to do in the year ahead.”
She kicked off the socially distant meet and greet tour on Sunday, Nov. 9, in Jackson Heights. On Monday, Nov. 10, González-Rojas visited Gorman Playground in East Elmhurst.
On Sunday, a table was set up with free personal protective equipment, snacks and water as González-Rojas greeted passersby and introduced herself as their new state elected official. After partaking in long conversations, locals jotted down their email addresses for her mailing list.
González-Rojas said the meet and greets have helped her hear from community members with quality of life concerns, such as late night loitering, that she hopes to address in Albany.
Amy Quichiz, a life-long Jackson Heights resident and co-founder of Veggie Mijas, a collective dedicated to educating women of color about veganism, was eager to meet González-Rojas.
“I wanted to meet Jessica Gonzales Rojas because for the first time, I’ve felt represented and also, felt like there was someone that genuinely cared about the people in Jackson Heights. She stands up for everything I believe in — women’s rights, queer rights, and justice for our hood,” Quichiz told QNS. “I have been so inspired by Latina women in Queens standing together to combat our systems such as Jessica González-Rojas, Jessica Ramos and Tiffany Cabán. How great it is to have so many women in powerful positions trying to make a difference for women that look just like them. That look just like me.”
Quichiz presented González-Rojas with a Veggie Mijas cookbook, a “Jefa behavior” (“Boss behavior”) notebook, fist pin and a letter, “to let her know how proud I am of her.”
The gifts prompted the González-Rojas to well up with tears.
“One day I know I would love to run for office and having women like her not be afraid of challenges when it comes to running for this position — that takes a lot of guts. She’s brave. And I know I can be brave one day because of her and all Latina women in policy work,” Quichiz said.
González-Rojas, a longtime Jackson Heights resident and former executive director of the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health, ran on a platform that included immigrant benefits, LGBTQ+ rights and health care for all. She also presented a number of plans for local improvements, such as a Green New Northern Boulevard to make the dangerous two-way highway safer and greener.
The progressive elected said that while she waits to start her term in January, she continues to volunteer at the Love Wins Food Pantry every Friday.
“I’ll continue to be in service of the community and meeting the needs of those impacted, particularly in this neighborhood has been decimated by the coronavirus. We are hitting every single neighborhood in the district, which is Jackson Heights, East Elmhurst, Corona, and Woodside, and continue to do our food distribution and any other actions that happen in this moment,” she said. “We are still facing a Black Lives Matter movement, we are still facing concerns against the immigrant population here given that Trump is on his way out, he might wreak havoc on the way out. We want to make sure we’re standing in solidarity with our immigrant community members, which is the majority of people in this district. I’m still going to be out there in the streets — I’m an activist and that’s what brings me to run for office, and it doesn’t change anything for me showing up for the community.”
González-Rojas also visited Corona and Woodside by Tuesday, Nov. 10, when she wrapped up the tour.
Additional reporting by Dean Moses.