Steven Raga wins Democratic primary; braces for Assembly race

Taking the immigrant voice to Albany. Photo by Angelito Cabigao

By Lindy Rosales

History has just been made. Community leader Steven Raga won the Democratic primary elections for the New York State Assembly, the closest a Filipino American has ever reached in a race for a State-wide office.

“We’ve never had representation in any level of government”, said Raga at a dinner hosted for him by CEO and philanthropist Loida Nicolas Lewis in her Fifth Avenue residence on June 21, a week before the New York primary elections.

If elected, he will be the first FilAm to be elected to the New York State and the first to hold political office in Albany.

Raga ran under the Democratic Party for District 30, which covers Elmhurst, Woodside, Jackson heights, Maspeth and some parts of Middle Village and Astoria. This is the first election after redistricting where new district boundaries were drawn as a result of the 2020 census.  

He had amassed an impressive lineup of endorsements from New York leaders:  Representative Grace Meng, Senator John Liu, Representative Gregory Meeks, Representative Catalina Cruz, Borough President Donovan Richards, and endorsements from 35 organizations like the AFL-CIO, 1199 and others. Drew Sterman is his campaign manager.

Raga’s family has been in Woodside since the 1960s. His father passed away when he was a young boy, and he was raised by his single mom in Queens. A big part of his passion in public service he got from his mother, who worked as an administrator in a NYC hospital. 

Raga thanks staff, volunteers and supporters after winning the primary.
Indefatigable campaigner. Facebook photo

The centerpiece of his program is public safety, with special focus on anti-Asian violence. He also vowed to work for greater access to health care. Said Raga: “Some folks that need help are Filipinos, they just don’t speak up until it’s too late.”

In the campaign for the primary, Raga knocked on doors for six hours each day until election day. He did not take anything for granted.

“After this, we need more Filipinos in city councils, Senate and State levels. Our time is now, just wait a few more days”, he said.

He wants to make Philippine Independence Day a State event and have the community come to Albany and celebrate Philippine culture and heritage in the seat of power.

Raga will face the Republican nominee Sean Lally in the November elections.  Ballotpedia lists his profession as “Petition carrier for Andrew Giuliani’s gubernatorial campaign.”

“It is time that we take our voice to the Assembly and that we are represented by someone who understands the spirit and the needs of this amazing community. Together, we can reimagine the future of Queens,” Raga said.

Raga was the executive director of Woodside on the Move, after previously serving as regional manager for Policy & Advocacy for the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation, senior advisor for AARP, and chief of staff for Assemblymember Brian Barnwell (AD30).

Currently, he is an advisor for the United States Civil Rights Commission, a member of the Queens District Attorney Commission for Asian American Affairs, and sits on the Boards for the National Association for Filipino American Associations,  Western Queens Community Land Trust, the National Urban Fellows Alumni, Queens Community Board 2, Queens LGBT Pride, and Pilipino American Unity for Progress which he founded in Woodside in 2009.

© The FilAm 2022

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