Raga declares victory in Assembly District 30 race

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Steven Raga and his supporters at the Woodside Pub Beerkeeper. (Photo by Carlotta Mohamed)

Steven Raga, a Woodside resident and Democratic candidate for Assembly District 30, made history becoming the first Filipino American elected to the New York state Assembly after declaring victory against Republican challenger Sean Lally in Tuesday night’s general election. 

Raga tallied 57.84% of the votes (10,972 votes), while Lally received 41.12% of votes, with 97.66% of precincts reporting asof Wednesday morning according to unofficial results from the city Board of Elections. The results will not be certified until all ballots are counted.

Raga celebrated his victory at the Beerkeeper, located at 58-15 Woodside Ave., as friends, community leaders and volunteers cheered him on.  

“I’m very proud of the campaign we ran — being out in the train station stops at 6 a.m. and at bus stops, knocking doors, and figuring out hashtags for future posts,” Raga said. “This is really a team effort. This is a movement and effort that we are going to continue next year and for years to come. This neighborhood means a lot to me. I look forward to advocating for everyone here, defending our rights and working in partnership with our other co-working legislatures to bring more value to all New Yorkers.” 

Raga added that he’s very excited and glad to be joining other Assembly members, such as Assemblywoman Jessica González-Rojas, who was in attendance to congratulate him on his win. 

“Steve Raga was not just a community leader, he became a friend. He became a confidant and someone I talked with and connected with my chief of staff, and made sure we had a relationship with,” González-Rojas said. “To know that I’m losing part of my district to this amazing person, it just absolutely means so much. We are going to continue to work together as colleagues who are really going to fight for the community, understand the community, and fight for the dignity of our neighbors right here in District 30.” 

Steven Raga and Assemblywoman Jessica González-Rojas. (Photo by Carlotta Mohamed)

Raga is set to represent Assembly District 30, which includes the neighborhoods of Woodside, Elmhurst, Maspeth and parts of Jackson Heights. The area is home to a large population of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPIs). 

Raga is the former chief of staff to incumbent Brian Barnwell, who was elected to office in January 2017 after defeating incumbent Margaret Markey in the Democratic primary. In April, Barnwell announced that he would not seek reelection to represent the district. 

With the seat open, Raga launched his campaign. He was selected by a committee that was formed to determine who would replace Barnwell on the ballot. During the Democratic primary election in June, Raga defeated Ramon Cando, taking 70.8% of the votes, while Cando received 28%, according to Ballotpedia. 

Throughout his campaign, Raga has amassed endorsements from local elected officials such as Congress members Grace Meng and Gregory Meeks, state Senator John Liu and Assembly members Ron Kim, Catalina Cruz and Jenifer Rajkumar. 

Raga ran his campaign on issues related to  housing discrimination and support for small businesses. His other objectives include investing in infrastructure, fighting for workers’ rights, education equity and public safety reform. 

While serving as chief of staff to Barnwell for the past four years and working with nonprofit organizations providing community resources and services, Raga was able to develop bonds with his neighbors. He also learned about pertinent legislative issues to Western Queens and the complex relationship between city and state politics. 

Raga has served as the executive director of Woodside on the Move, a social service and advocacy nonprofit located in the neighborhood. Prior to that role, he served as the northeast regional manager of Policy and Advocacy for the Komen Foundation. 

Before he entered the world of politics, Raga spent nearly a decade doing nonprofit work by himself, including his time as a senior strategist multicultural leadership for AARP. He is a member of Queens Pride, two organizations that have worked towards sustained change and support for the borough. 

Additionally, Raga is also on the Board of the National Federation of Filipino American Associations and is the founder of Pilipino American Unity for Progress (UniPro). The organization’s mission is to engage Pilipino Americans through collaboration, advocacy and education.