FilAm candidates for NYC City Council make final push in their campaigns

FilAm candidates Steven Raga and Deirdre Levy. I Photo courtesy of Steven Raga for Queens

THE first citywide ranked choice voting in New York City is underway and Primary Day is on Tuesday, June 22.

With less than a week to go, candidates and their volunteers are making the extra effort to knock on more doors and meet more people in their local districts.

Among the nearly 300 candidates running throughout the five boroughs for the 51 city council seats are three Filipino Americans: Marni Halasa for District 3 (Manhattan), Steven Raga for District 26 (Queens), and Deirdre Levy for District 35 (Brooklyn).

Because of term limits, 35 of the 51 seats are up for grabs.

There are 13 Democrats, two Republicans and a handful of independents in the mayoral race.

Halasa, a lawyer, figure skating coach and small business owner is running in the city’s 3rd Council district — which includes Greenwich Village, West Village, Chelsea, SoHo, Hell’s Kitchen, Times Square, Hudson Square, and the Flatiron. She is hoping to replace the term-limited incumbent Corey Johnson, currently the City Council Speaker and running for City Comptroller.

Raga’s 26th district on the other hand includes Sunnyside, Woodside, Long Island City, Dutch Kills, and parts of Astoria. He is banking on his years of non-profit leadership and board management along with his government leadership and legislative experience as Chief of Staff for Assemblyman Brian Barnwell to help him win a seat in the council.

According to Board of Elections records, a number of districts have 10 or more contenders. District 26 for example has at least 15 Democrats running to replace Councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer.

FilAm candidates Steven Raga and Deirdre Levy with Consul General Elmer G. Cato celebrate Philippine Independence Day at the Barkada Market Market, a community project held at Kabisera Cafe. I Photo courtesy of Deirdre Levy for City Council

A special education teacher, Levy is running against six other candidates in District 35 to replace term-limited Councilmember Laurie Cumbo. Her district in Brooklyn extends over Fort Greene, Clinton Hill, Bed-Stuy, Prospect Heights and Crown Heights.

“I’m really excited to see more Filipinos run for positions in government, it is important that we have that,” Levy said at the Kapihan with the Fil-Am Press Club of New York last spring.

She and her friends started Project Barkada last year as a way to help the most at-risk in the community during the pandemic. They worked with local businesses to get food and drinks to the frontline healthcare providers.

In Queens, Raga introduced mayoral candidate Maya Wiley to Little Manila businesses and residents last week.

“We were able to discuss issues dear to my community, like tenant and small business rent relief, anti-Asian violence, and accessibility issues, especially within our transportation system,” Raga said in a social media post.

“The Filipino-American community here in Little Manila has repeatedly been discounted and unheard (true for many of the marginalized communities in our district), which is why we need elected officials who will center and uplift the marginalized, under-resourced, and under-funded neighborhoods of our district, and our city.”

Since June 22 is a primary election, voters can only vote for candidates running as members of the party they are registered with.

Because the city is using ranked choice voting for the first time, voters will get to rank up to five candidates in most races.

This means that instead of picking only one candidate per race, voters are going to rank each candidate by preference on their ballot, choosing their top five candidates in total.

Early Voting Period ends on Sunday, June 20 and Election Day is Tuesday, June 22; polls are open from 6:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. n

Momar G. Visaya

Momar G. Visaya is the Executive Editor of the Asian Journal. You can reach him at [email protected].

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