Rajkumar expected to be first Indian-American woman in Albany

Jenifer Rajkumar, candidate for the NY State Assembly from District 38. She won the primary against fellow Democrat, Assemblyman Michael Miller June 23, 2020. Photo credit: Sultan Khan, courtesy Jenifer Rajkumar

Even as Suraj Patel and Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney duke it out on the absentee ballot count in the Democratic primary from District 12 in Manhattan, Jenifer Rajkumar who also ran in the primary for a seat in the New York legislature against a stalwart Democrat Michael Miller, from Assembly District 38, appears to have sailed through with the mail-in ballots going overwhelmingly in her favor.

Though the Democratic primary took place June 23, 2020, results of the absentee ballot count have gone badly to say the least, with Patel filing lawsuits against Gov. Andrew Cuomo and his opponent, and talking heads worrying about what will happen on November 3rd during the general election when way more people could avail of mail-in ballots rather than lining up at the polls in the midst of the evolving COVID-19 pandemic.

But the mail-in ballot count in New York State Assembly District 38 appears to have gone smoothly. Rajkumar, an attorney and civil rights activist, defeated longstanding Assemblyman Michael Miller, in this overwhelmingly Democratic District 38, and is expected to defeat Republican opponent Giovanni Perna November 3.  That will make her the first Indian-American and South Asian to be elected to the New York legislature.

On June 23 itself, Rajkumar garnered a 25 point lead over Miller when just the in-person ballots were counted. And now with the absentee ballots counted, she has kept that lead despite it being a three-way race.

Below are the current tallies for the AD 38 Election Results, as well as the vote percentages provided by Rajkumar’s office:

Jenifer Rajkumar: 3,624 (2624+1000), 52%

Michael Miller: 1,769 (1300+469), 25.38%

Joseph De Jesus: 1576 (1108+468), 22.61

Total Votes: 6,969

“Our campaign has been able to achieve the near impossible by winning with a margin of 27 percentage points during a global pandemic,” Rajkumar told Desi Talk. “When the people of South Queens needed a leader, our office was the first to show up, setting up a 24/7 Coronavirus response team that operates in 7 languages.”

She recounted how a man who lost his wife to COVID-19 called her and she was able to help him and his family, “when they were too heartbroken to think.”

Rajkumar said, “I became closer than ever to my constituents during this crisis. This is why I ran for office- to serve hungry families in need of food, to help immigrants navigate America, to be a voice for the unheard,” she said.

Desi Talk spoke to a couple of her constituents and supporters who also stressed her closeness to the community of Queens.

“She is an excellent woman and candidate. She is a people person. When they are in trouble, she feels the pain,” said Rajwinder “Rose” Kaur, a leader of the Richmond Hill community for many years. Kaur, who is also Rajkumar’s senior campaign advisor, said she chose to support her because she felt the community needed a person like her in Albany.

“She likes and wants to do something for the South Asian and Indo-Caribbean community. Our schools need fixing, and area needs improvement. I have always dreamed of having a candidate who feels for us. She has great integrity and is not like a regular politician. Thank God we have a person to represent us now in Albany,” Kaur said.

Nayan Parikh, a construction company owner, told Desi Talk he has been supporting Rajkumar for the last ten years. “She is the most qualified and educated Assemblywoman in Albany,” Parikh said as if Rajkumar’s victory in November was a foregone conclusion.

“Jenifer has the full support of the community, and I expect her to win in November,” Parikh said.

Parikh is also on Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s and Mayor Bill de Blasio’s Minority Women Business Enterprise committees, he told Desi Talk, as well as on an advisory board that is helping the Mayor with the city’s reopening.

“I am humbled and honored to be the first South Asian woman ever to be elected to a government office in the State of New York. But I am certainly not the last one.” Rajkumar told Desi Talk, adding, “We won across all political ideologies and demographics, winning every neighborhood in the district.”



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