About half of the 21 candidates presented by the New Reformers, a local PAC with goals of reforming the Democratic party in Queens, won their races for unpaid lower level positions within the party, preliminary results show.
The majority of the winners won with narrow margins and could be overturned by the as of yet uncounted record high number of absentee ballots that were requested because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
But even if they do ultimately lose, the group said that they still feel as though they’ve been successful in their efforts because they were able to force primaries for these obscure party positions, such as district leader, and raise awareness of their existence.
“We already felt that, you know, we won,” said Maria Kauffer, a New Reformers board member who won the Female District Leader in Assembly District 28 Part A with just three percent more of the vote according to unofficial results. “People are asking, “What are these positions?” you know, and realizing that they too can run, giving us the opportunity to educate them and empower them to be more engaged in the party so that everyone is represented and everyone can be heard.”
The New Reformers was founded in 2019 with the goal of making the Queens County Democratic Party more transparent, democratic, and participatory. To do this they recruited people to run for unpaid party positions with a particular emphasis on district leader. These unpaid positions are typically unchallenged in primaries with the same person holding the office for years.
Many of the 21 candidates recruited by the New Reformers were up against long time holders of the office, including current and former public officials. Kauffer, a dietician and certified diabetes educator who lives in Forest Hills, ran against longtime District Leader and City Councilmember Karen Koslowitz.
Neither the Queens County Democratic Party nor Councilmember Koslowitz could be reached in time for this story.
“We started out with this idea with wanting to fundamentally change the Queens Democratic party to have it be more participatory, transparent, inclusive,” said Virginia Ramos Rios, who ran for Female State Committee in Assembly District 28.
Ramos-Rios has been involved with the New Reformers from its start. She said that her work for the New Reformers recruiting people to run for district leader made her realize that she should run for something herself.
Ramos-Rios won three-quarters of the vote in her race and seems likely to win even with the uncounted absentee ballots. Many of the other races were close calls with winners taking just over 50% of the vote.
“I was in shock,” she said about her most likely win of the Female State Committee in Assembly District 28 spot. “I am someone who believes that these changes might take a little longer and that we need to keep at it.”
But Ramos-Rios wasn’t ready to declare victory yet.
“I am very much of the opinion that every vote deserves to be counted,” she said about the outstanding absentee ballots.
No matter the result of the final ballot tally, the New Reformers will keep up their efforts for future elections, Kauffer said. But for now, they just have to wait for the final results.
“I do hope my 65 vote lead holds!” Kauffer said laughing. “It would really be nice to truly win the election so that we can more expeditiously make democratic improvements to the way the party functions.”