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Name:  Jenifer Rajkumar
Office Sought: New York State Assembly District 38
Party Affiliation(s): Democrat
Age: 37
Education: Stanford Law School (JD 2008 with pro bono distinction), University of Pennsylvania (BA 2004, magna cum laude, phi beta kappa)
Occupation/Employer: Lawyer
Previous Offices, Campaigns and Community/Civic Involvement:

  • Served in the Administration of Governor Andrew Cuomo as Director of Immigration Affairs and Special Counsel (2017-2019)
  • Elected Democratic District Leader (2011-2017)
  • National Women’s Law Center (Fellow, 2009-2010)
  • Serve on the Board of Represent Women Currently
  • Previously served on the National Board of Directors for the Women’s Campaign Fund (2012-2013)
  • Adjunct Professor at CUNY’s Lehman College
  • Civil Rights Lawyer at Sanford Heisler Sharp LLP

Website:  www.jeniferforny.com
Twitter:  @JeniferRajkumar
Facebook:   Jenifer Rajkumar for New York

 

 

CANDIDATE QUESTIONS

Please state whether you support or oppose the following reform measures. If you wish to elaborate on your answers, you may do so in the provided space at the bottom of this page.

 

Ethics

  1. Replace the Joint Commission on Public Ethics and the Legislative Ethics Commission with an effective and independent enforcement body (S594A/A1282A).
    Support
  1. Limit outside compensation earned by state legislators and statewide officials to 25% of their salaries and eliminate stipends.
    Support

 

Elections and Voting

  1. Do you support or oppose the following changes to the state’s current registration and voting system?
    1. No-excuse absentee voting (second passage of constitutional amendment)
      Support
    2. Election Day voter registration (second passage of constitutional amendment)
      Support
    3. Re-enfranchisement of people on parole automatically through legislation, without requiring a Certificate of Good Conduct or Relief
      Support
    4. Automatic voter registration, unless the potential voter opts out
      Support
    5. Mandating poll sites on college campuses
      Support
  1. Reform the special election process, utilizing a nonpartisan special election for state legislative seats and eliminate delays in filling vacancies.
    Support
  1. Reduce the vote threshold to become a registered party back to 50,000 votes and keep the gubernatorial election as the qualifying election, and reduce the petition requirement for independent candidates back to 15,000 signatures.
    Support

 

Campaign Finance

  1. Amend the state’s public campaign financing system, approved in the 2021 budget, by
    1. Drastically reduce campaign contribution limits
      Support
    2. Set even lower contribution limits for registered lobbyists and those who do business with the state
      Support
    3. Move the campaign finance matching program to be administered by an independent, nonpartisan body outside of the NY Board of Election
      Support
    4. Simplify the matching system by making both in- and out-of-district donations eligible and by eliminating the three different tiers for matching
      Support

 

Budget Process

  1. Require full disclosure of grants and contracts issued by the state, including the budget lines from which the spending is made and reporting on the results of each grant or contract over a certain amount.
    Support
  1. Provide for effective online disclosure and itemization of spending from elected officials’ lump sum appropriations, including reporting on potential conflicts of interest and how the funds are spent.
    Support

 

Police Accountability

  1. Repeal Civil Rights Law, Sec. 50-a, which shields from public view the disciplinary records of police officers, correction officers, and firefighters.
    Support

 

Election Administration

  1. Restructure the state Board of Elections to abolish the strict two-party division of governance and operation and put in place professional, nonpartisan administration.
    Support
  1. Empower the attorney general to investigate and prosecute election law malfeasance and cases of public corruption.
    Support

 

Home Rule

  1. Make mayoral control of city schools permanent, with a governance system that provides for accountability, transparency, parent engagement, and democratic participation.
    Support

 

Court Reform

  1. Simplify and consolidate New York State’s court system by passing the Chief Judge’s proposed constitutional amendment to modernize the courts.
    Support

If needed, you may elaborate below on your positions on the previous questions. You may also provide additional information on any actions that you have taken or plan to take to advance your positions on these issues.

As a civil rights lawyer, I value a modernized court system and police accountability.  As a former Ethics Officer for New York State, I am intimately familiar with JCOPE decisions and ethics laws. I understand fully the need to eliminate conflicts of interests among our elected officials — our elected officials should be accountable only to the people they represent, not to any outside interests or financial interests of their own. Finally, as a former elected district leader and community organizer, I have always supported election laws that make it easier (not harder) for people to vote. I have also seen firsthand how important it is to reform our state special election processes by turning them into nonpartisan elections. That way, our legislative members will be elected through true democracy rather than through rigged and fixed backroom processes.

 

RESPONDING TO THE COVID-19 OUTBREAK

Government under the COVID-19 outbreak

  1. Adopt technological solutions and provisions that will allow the New York State legislature to convene and vote remotely if needed.
    Support
  1. Provide public access to observe and participate in government proceedings, in meetings that would be public under the New York Open Meetings Law, via live and recorded video available on government Website: 
    Support
  1. Implement immediate programs to facilitate absentee voting for all New York voters as long as the widespread contagion risk of COVID-19 continues, under current state constitutional limitations. This includes electronic submission of absentee ballot applications without a wet signature and a public information campaign.
    Support
  1. What are your concerns regarding the use of emergency powers during this crisis, and how do you think NY government can maintain public accountability standards at this time?
    By necessity during this crisis, the Governor needs to use emergency powers in order to achieve the paramount goal of protecting public health. He is empowered to do so by a set of statues known as the Executive Law, giving him the discretion to suspend laws and regulations during a disaster. So far he has signed over 11 Executive orders and suspended many laws. I believe the Governor has been a strong leader through this crisis. He has been fact-driven, action-oriented, and transparent.

    However, as the Governor pushes regulations to the side, the legislature becomes marginalized.  This is of concern, because checks and balances must always exist in the government structure. To maintain public accountability standards, the legislature must stay open for business during this crisis, even if it’s through tele-technology.  The law gives the legislature the power to terminate any order of the Governor’s through its own resolution.  The legislature must stay vigilant, engaged, and open for business, so that the Executive authority does not go unchecked.

 

Serving the public under the COVID-19 outbreak

  1. What are the biggest challenges in your district in dealing with the coronavirus outbreak?
    My district in South Queens is often overlooked and has some of the highest rates of coronavirus cases of anywhere in the country. Many of my constituents do not speak English as a first language. It is hard for so many of them to receive the aid they need as a result. Many of them have been going hungry, as major grocery delivery services to do not deliver in South Queens. That, combined with unemployment has led to families living in hunger. Additionally, my district houses many front line workers, essential workers and taxi drivers. We do not have sufficient PPE for these New Yorkers.
  1. What are the appropriate roles of city, state, and federal governments in a crisis such as this?
    The appropriate roles of the various levels of government are to provide aide and support in accordance with the scope of their duties. City governments should work with the State to develop plans for their specific geographic regions. The state government has the legal authority and responsibility to handle many aspects of this crisis. The federal government ought to be able to provide increased economic support and hard-to-obtain supplies through national and international channels.
  1. How will you help your future constituents, residents and businesses, access potential funding from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, or any other future government relief funds?
    As an assemblywoman, I will do what I am currently doing as a candidate. I currently have a 24/7 Coronavirus hotline that operates in 6 languages, which any constituent can call for aid. Every day, we help people in need – whether by delivering food and PPE, arranging consultations with doctors, or helping people fill out forms for funds and services. As an assemblywoman, I would continue and grow this program of constituent support.

 

CAMPAIGN PROMISES MADE TO VOTERS

What are the top five promises you are making to the voters during the campaign?

Campaign Promise 1
Replacing the culture of corruption in Albany with a culture of service.
I will fight to end the culture of corruption among our leaders in Albany by pushing for comprehensive ethics reform legislation and rooting out corruption at the local level. A major way to fight against corruption is to be an active leader and to set the standard for ethical behavior locally.

Campaign Promise 2
Affordability for tenants, small businesses, and commuters.
I have a history of advocating for tenants rights. I have fought and will continue to fight abusive landlords on behalf of tenants and small businesses. South Queens is where so many New Yorkers start their success stories. I want to help them thrive.

Campaign Promise 3
Education (quality schools, building more schools, turning around failing schools)
I will gather input from teachers, parents, and students on how to improve schools and education in the 38th District. I believe that input from the people that are directly affected is the best way to bring about meaningful improvements and am a strong proponent of local control of our schools.

Campaign Promise 4
Restoring a culture of service to local government (free legal clinic, grassroots constituent services).
I have held free legal clinics, giving constituents free and easy access to housing attorneys. Now, during the pandemic, I’ve worked with local charities and businesses to help provide food and PPE to constituents on a daily basis.

Campaign Promise 5
Public Safety: Combatting Theft & Hate Crimes
I will work directly with local law enforcement and community organizations to improve the safety of our neighborhoods, and reduce crime while building a stronger relationship with local police. This will ensure that any acts of discrimination or hate crimes are prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law and that our people are protected and safe.

 

ETHICAL REPRESENTATION OF CONSTITUENTS

Citizens Union believes that all New Yorkers deserve to be represented by officials who work for the public interest and honor the public trust. With the corruption conviction of recent legislative leaders, we seek to endorse a candidate who will demonstrate that she/he will honor the full commitment of the oath of office, and always represent the public interest above all else.

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