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Photo courtesy of Jessica González-Rojas' campaign

Progressive first-time challenger Jessica González-Rojas has won the highly contested race for Assembly District 34, beating six-term incumbent Michael DenDekker as well as three other candidates, on Friday, July 17.

After a day of absentee ballot counting for the district, which encompasses Jackson Heights, East Elmhurst and parts of Woodside and Corona, a source told QNS González-Rojas won with about 42 percent of the total vote. Results have not yet been certified by the Board of Elections.

However, DenDekker took to Twitter to concede the race.

“Congratulations Jessica Gonzalez-Rojas […] on your victory in the Democratic Primary for the 34th AD,” he wrote. “I wish you all the best as you represent our community in Albany!”

González-Rojas, a longtime Jackson Heights resident and former executive director of the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health, held an early lead in the crowded race since Election Day. Other candidates included Uber driver and transit organizer Joy Chowdhury, former Manhattan prosecutor Nuala O’Doherty-Naranjo and Angel Cruz. But she wasn’t ready to declare victory until all the absentee ballots were counted.

On Friday, González-Rojas told QNS, “It’s all settling in.”

“I’m very excited and grateful,” she said. “I’m deeply humbled to have earned the confidence of the community. I had a bold agenda, and it speaks to what community and people are yearning for in the state. My goal is to create systemic change.”

González-Rojas ran on a platform that included immigrant benefits, LGBTQ+ rights and health care for all. She also presented a number of plans, such as a Green New Northern Boulevard to make the dangerous two-way highway safer and greener.

The former adjunct professor for CUNY City College and NYU Wagner School of Public Service is also a vocal supporter of the Cancel Rent movement and Excluded Workers Fund, as a result of the toll the virus has taken on immigrant communities and in particular her district.

In addition to a strong community backing, she received endorsements from progressive leaders including Jackson Heights Councilman Daniel Dromm, former Queens district attorney candidate Tiffany Cabán, the Working Families Party and Make the Road Action.

For the general election in November, González-Rojas will face opposition from William Marquez, who is running on the Republican Party line.

In the meantime, González-Rojas said she will continue to participate in the Black Lives Matter protests and actions, as well as volunteer in food pantries, as the District 34 community continues to experience an increase in food insecurity due to the pandemic.

“I look forward to hosting something as a show of gratitude when possible … it’s such a difficult time, but I want to thank everyone for their support. It means so much to me.”

This is a developing story. Check back on QNS.com for more updates.

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