Jenifer Rajkumar hopes to find a place in N.Y. State Assembly

Jenifer Rajkumar

Jennifer Rajkumar, an attorney at Sanford Heisler Kimpel LLP and a district leader on the West Side, New York, is hoping to win a seat to the New York State Assembly.

The young Indian American, who had in 2013 run unsuccessfully against City Council member Margaret Chin, had pulled in more than 40% of the vote share. Jennifer is running for New York state Assembly from Manhattan’s 65th District, fighting a tough battle to win in the Sept. 13 election to fill the seat vacated by convicted former state Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver.

Democratic District Leader Jenifer Rajkumar, 33, is running against 5 other candidates, one of them elected earlier this year to finish Silver’s remaining term. Rajkumar said she would be a candidate of change, someone dedicated to reclaiming the assembly seat for the people in the aftermath of the Sheldon Silver corruption scandal. “For too long.” she asserted, “Tammany Hall and corrupt machine politics has pushed our most vulnerable out of mainstream society, into the darkest corners of the city.”

Too many people have been pushed out of their homes, out of higher education and out of decent jobs, she argued. “It is time to dismantle cronyism and the pay to play politics that benefits a small few at the expense of many.”

Rajkumar said she would be a proponent of “community-minded leadership.” She said the activism of parents at P.S. 137 on the Lower East Side, who created their own after-school program, inspired her. Rajkumar also highlighted Chinatown housing protests, which she has joined, by a group called the Coalition to Protect Chinatown and the Lower East Side. She singled out the Grand Street Cooperatives, saying, “I see people gathered here today who have banded together to make sure the co-ops honor their history and the cooperative spirit and honor the principles of transparency.”

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Rajkumar rattled off a number of priorities, including: saving the Elizabeth Street Garden from development, making sure repairs are made in NYCHA buildings and pushing for meaningful ethics reform.

Other contenders in September are: Yuh-Line Niou, who ran on the Working Families Party line in the recent special election; Paul Newell, a district leader who lives at Masaryk Towers; Community Board 3 Chairperson Gigi Li, local businessman Don Lee and Lower East Side resident Christopher Marte.

On Aug. 8, Rajkumar’s campaign announced an unusual endorsement from former Florida Governor Charlie Crist, whose traction in a New York state Assembly district is doubtful. Crist, a Republican turned Democrat, running for the U.S. Congress and endorsed by President Obama, appealed to the many “snowbirds” in Florida who hail from New York’s 65th District, to support Rajkumar. “Snowbirds” refers to the mostly senior voters who escape to Florida’s warmer climes every winter.

“This will, without a doubt, resonate,” Michael Tobman, Rajkumar’s campaign spokesperson, told Desi Talk about Crist’s endorsement, which he said, is “a clear recognition of Jenifer’s independence, sincerity, and accomplishments from a dedicated public servant who has proven himself to be extremely thoughtful.”

According to a local news outlet,, Rajkumar came out on top in terms of cash in hand for her campaign in the July 31 financial report, grossing more than $204,000 in contrast to the remaining candidates, all of whom had below $100,000.

According to, 42.3 percent of the population of the 65th District is of Asian origin, mostly Chinese, 33.8 percent White, around 15.7 percent Latino, and 5.2 percent Black, belonging to upper and lower income groups. Of the total “foreign-born” population, only 2.1 percent are from India, and more than 50 percent from China.

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