Steven Raga makes history, vows to ‘help anybody regardless of ethnicity’

Raised in Woodside by a single parent, Raga is elected to the New York State Assembly representing District 30 where his neighborhood is. Photos by Lindy Rosales

By Lindy Rosales

A New York City district of mostly working-class immigrant neighborhoods has elected Democrat Steven Raga as their representative to the New York State Assembly on November 8.

Raga, a Filipino American community organizer, won the race over Sean Lally of the Medical Freedom Party garnering a decisive 57.9 percent — or 10,972 — of the votes. He has jurisdiction over District 30 encompassing the neighborhoods of Astoria, Elmhurst, Maspeth, Middle Village, Jackson Heights and Woodside where he grew up.   

“I’m very happy and looking forward to serving the constituents of Assembly District 30”, said Raga at a victory party at The Beerkeeper bar on Woodside Avenue where supporters watched the midterm election count and later cheered his victory.

On Election Day, Suzette Briones-Lucero and Ramel Racelis sat outside PS 229 handing out brochures to voters walking toward the school.

“There is no one here from the other party,” said Briones-Lucero. She,  Racelis and Raga co-founded UniPro — Pilipino American Unity for Progress, Inc. — in 2009, which serves to connect Filipino Americans through collaborative action, advocacy and dialogue. People were polite, accepted the brochures and even stopped to ask questions.

Shouts of victory from supporters.

We caught up with Raga at Our Lady of  Hope Catholic Academy in Middle Village. He was relieving his volunteers who went out to lunch. The crowd was a little tough in this neighborhood. People declined the brochures when we were there to observe. One lady with a stroller said she’s voting Democrat anyway.  It is said that New York has always been  a Blue state since the Great Depression.  Toward the last few days of the campaign, there were rumors that New York would turn Red for GOP candidate Lee Zeldin. Democrat Kathy Hochul prevailed.

“We’re looking good. If we win, my goal is to help anybody, regardless of their ethnicity,” said Raga. 

Now elected to the New York State Assembly, Raga would be dealing with State level issues such as health care, aid to public schools, infrastructure, jobs, and more in its legislation. Issues like violence in the subway in NYC, are tackled at the city level, he pointed out.

Raga was the former chief of staff to Brian Barnwell who was District 30 Assembly member until he  announced he would not seek reelection. Raga expressed an interest in the position and, with Barnwell’s encouragement, worked toward making his candidacy a reality.

The final tally

At the Beerkeeper, where campaign volunteers and supporters waited for the election results, Raga was a little bit nervous and tried not to look at the election count. He showed an early lead and people were already congratulating him and giving him hugs. Raga was finally announced as the winner for District 30 around 11 p.m. to loud cheers from volunteers and supporters. Assembly Member Jessica Gonzalez-Rojas from District 34 who was at the pub hugged  her “friend”  as he was proclaimed the winner.  

History had indeed been made. A Filipino American is finally elected to the New York State Assembly.

Quinn Aranas, a Woodside resident, said he was “so happy for Steve.”

“Hindi kami nag-stop sa pag support sa kanya. Haping happy kami sa results,” he said. 

In Queens where Raga was raised by a single mother, came of age and found his footing as a sociable and comradely community organizer, the borough welcomed him as their district boss.

“Queens means so much to me, I look forward to advocating for everybody here,” he said.

© The FilAm 2022

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