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Incumbent González-Rojas and challenger Pacheco vie for District 34 Assembly seat

Assemblymember Jessica González-Rojas speaking at the candidate forum. Photo by the Queens Post

June 25, 2024 By Queens Post News Team

Incumbent State Assemblymember Jessica González-Rojas and challenger Ricardo Pacheco addressed Astoria residents Wednesday night in a final bid to sway voters ahead of Tuesday’s Democratic primary elections. 

González-Rojas, who has held the seat for District 34 since 2021, and Pacheco, a former Marine and NYPD officer, spoke to members of the Astoria Homeowners, Tenants and Business Civic Association on Wednesday night as part of the association’s candidates night. 

District 34 encompasses the neighborhoods of Jackson Heights and parts of Corona, East Elmhurst and Astoria.

Each candidate was given approximately ten minutes to address residents and answer questions during the event, which took place at Pistilli Grand Manor at 45-02 Ditmars Blvd.

“González-Rojas positioned herself as the daughter of an immigrant, the mother of a public school child and a strap-hanger who relies on the very transit system that she advocates for.”

She described herself as a mom dedicated to improving public schools and pointed to a bill providing universal free breakfast and lunches for every schoolchild in New York State. She said the bill ensures that 86% of children in the state have access to a free breakfast and free lunch. 

“Everyone should know that you cannot teach a hungry child. And too many children are struggling with food insecurity in our school system. One in four families in New York State have faced food insecurity at some point in the last year,” González-Rojas said during Wednesday’s event.

She additionally pointed to her efforts fighting for children’s health, noting efforts to protect the New York State Children’s Health Insurance program, which provides insurance for children up to six years of age.

González-Rojas noted that children were once continually enrolled in the program until their sixth birthday, but said the enrolment must now be renewed each year, meaning up to 400,000 children were no longer insured. 

“I was able to ensure that in the budget, we included a provision that every child was on Medicaid, or the State Children’s Health Insurance program can be continually rolled from zero to six years old.” 

She also commented that she has fought for reproductive rights and veteran’s health and pledged to fight for “six-minute service” for public transport in Queens. 

González-Rojas described Astoria as a “transit desert” and said it was imperative to invest in improved bus services for the local community.

“If you get your stop and there’s a 20-minute wait, you might try to find another way to get there. But if you have six minutes, you might wait for that bus. And we want to make sure that we’re investing in the infrastructure of our MTA. So, we have better-improved bus services.” 

She added that the MTA is currently undertaking a Queens bus redesign to better serve the community and encourage all residents to take part in the redesign to ensure that all areas are well served. 

Pacheco, meanwhile, said he served as a police officer for 23 years and has dedicated his life to public service, but has now lost trust in his elected officials. 

“When I hear that the funding for schools, libraries and senior programs, I expect a local elected official to say something,” Pacheco said. 

“When I hear that two cops are shot by an illegal immigrant, I expect and I demand that a local elected official say something,” he added, referencing an incident at the beginning of June where two cops were shot and injured while confronting a suspect in East Elmhurst

“I expect them to take care of us, to make sure that we have quality of life, that we’re safe. So when a brothel opens in the area, I expect the local elected official to say something, to do something, to advocate for us, to ensure that our children don’t have to walk through that. We expect the local elected officials to answer to us, and so that’s why I’m running, because I lost the trust.” 

He also positioned himself against illegal immigration and said it was unfair that undocumented migrants received more from the state every month than senior citizens and pensioners. 

“I’m an immigrant. I am not against legal immigration. I will never be against that,” Pacheco said. “My mother worked all her life and right now her pension is less than the $1,300 that every immigrant is getting when they get here. That is not fair. Thirty-five years working, and she gets nothing compared to them.” 

Pacheco also said he was not against open streets or any program that benefits the local community but claimed that “legal corruption” is ongoing at state level, claiming that elected officials are pushing agendas for transit groups and companies. 

González-Rojas, on the other hand, said she was hit by a car last January when a car “recklessly” turned and knocked her over while she was crossing a crosswalk. 

“I’m here to tell the story. So many families don’t have that privilege. They’ve lost their loved ones to reckless, dangerous drivers. I’ve gone to too many vigils, too many marches, too many rallies to fight for legislation that ensures that our streets are safer.”

She added that she supports a bill that will allow the New York City Council to have authority over speed limits in the city.  

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