New York, NY: A coalition of groups representing women in politics is pushing for Jenifer Rajkumar to replace former New York State Assemblyman Sheldon Silver in a special election. Rajkumar, an attorney and district leader in the 65th Assembly district, previously sought a city council seat. Sheldon Silver, 71, lost his seat recently when he was convicted on all seven felony counts of corruption, including extortion, money laundering and theft of honest services.
Rajkumar is one of several Democrats seeking to replace Silver in his lower Manhattan Assembly district. The former speaker stepped down from the top post in January following his arrest, but retained his seat in the back of the Assembly chamber. Rajkumar is optimistic despite the Democratic County Committee in the 65th Assembly District overwhelmingly endorsing someone else for the Special Election.
Seven Democrats are in the running to fill the vacant seat. Democratic District Leader Alice Cancel has been endorsed by the Democratic County Committee of the 65th District, where Rajkumar trailed 3rd in the vote count. Others include Working Families Party candidate Yuh-Line Niou, chief of staff to Queens Assemblyman Ron Kim, who has been endorsed by the chairman of the state Assembly’s Black, Puerto Rican, Hispanic and Asian Legislative Caucus; District Leader Paul Newell; and a local community board chairwoman Gigi Li.
Rajkumar practices civil rights law, with a specialty in employment discrimination, worker’s rights, class actions, and whistleblower lawsuits. She was part of the litigation team in Velez v. Novartis, on behalf of a class of 5,600 women in their disparate pay and pregnancy discrimination claims. The U.N. named this one of the top ten cases in the world advancing women’s equality, and it resulted in the largest ever jury award in an employment discrimination case.
Rajkumar has helped represent whistleblowers taking a stand against corporate greed and corruption in multiple qui tam actions under the Federal False Claims Act, where she has helped secure millions of dollars for her firm’s clients. She recently originated an amicus brief in the U.S. Supreme Court on behalf of NOW, Equal Rights Advocates, and other national women’s groups where her firm argued for equality for women in nontraditional fields such as construction, firefighting, and mining. Rajkumar graduated from Stanford Law School. She was named a “Rising Star” by City & State and received a “Young Woman of Achievement Award” from WIN in 2012.She was selected as a 40 Under 40 Rising Star by City & State, one of New York’s premier news soures for politics, in its annual 40 Under 40 Rising Stars list., Rising Star, City & State, 2012.
The young Indian American was selected from an extremely competitive pool for a 2012 WIN Young Woman of Achievement Award, awarded annually to five high achieving women below the age of 35 by national nonprofit that seeks to train the next generation of women leaders. Selectors included WIN Advisory Council Members who are women at the top of their fields in government, nonprofit, law, and politics. Presented award in Washington, DC at a ceremony attended by about 300 people., Young Women of Achievement Award, WIN (Women’s Information Network), 2012. She was declared a “Local Heroine’ by the Battery Park paper The Broadsheet.
The Indian-American has been an elected Democratic Leader since 2011 and has deep roots in the area, which she emphasized would carry her through. Rajkumar has been endorsed by the Jim Owles Liberal Democratic Club named after the well-known gay rights advocate. Last December, a coalition of national women’s groups endorsed Rajkumar, including the Women’s Campaign Fund. A few weeks ago, a coalition of Latino leaders in the Lower East Side endorsed her as well.
“In a nation now ranked 86th in the world in the number of women in elected office and dropping, it is essential that we support the political ascendancy of women like Jenifer Rajkumar,” said Siobhan “Sam” Bennett, the author and political advocate who is a former president and CEO of the Women’s Campaign Fund. “Beyond her obvious qualifications, as a young minority woman she embodies exactly what is needed to correct our nation’s long-term electoral course. I’m proud to support her current candidacy and to have been one of those to encourage her to run for office at the beginning of her bright political career.”
Former Deputy Mayor Ninfa Segarra also endorsed Rajkumar’s Assembly bid, calling her an “ideal candidate.” “She has the ability to unite the many different communities in the district and provide a strong voice fighting for the district’s needs. Jenifer has the skill sets and temperament to succeed in New York State government,” Segarra said.
If elected, Rajkumar would be joining a Legislature that has seen an increasing number of women holding seats, with female representation hitting a new high of 55 members this year. Gov. Andrew Cuomo is expected to call a special election for Silver’s seat for April 19, the same day as the presidential primary in New York.