Assembly District 37 in Queens is once again contested after being held by Assemblywoman Catherine Nolan (D-Sunnyside, Ridgewood, Long Island City, Queensbridge, Ravenswood, Astoria, Woodside, Maspeth, Dutch Kills, Blissville) for 18 consecutive terms, many times without a Democratic opponent.
On June 23, when 37th District constituents arrive at their polling sites to vote for the Democratic primary, they will see a name next to Nolan’s for the position of state assembly: Mary Jobaida.
Jobaida, an outreach specialist at Urban Health Plan, would be the first Bangladeshi-American in the New York State Assembly if she wins.
Nolan has held her seat in the state legislature for over 30 years, one of the main reasons that Jobaida — a wife and mother of three children — said she is running against her.
“As a mother of three who has been raising a family in this district for over 15 years, not once have I seen a true, democratic process when I’ve gone to vote for a state assembly member from my party,” Jobaida was quoted as saying in an article from QNS News. “For all that our country does to serve as a beacon of democracy around the world, having only one name to choose from on a local ballot is not what true democracy looks like. That is why I wish to be the face of change and true democracy in my district.”
Beyond the goal of replacing an incumbent, Jobaida has a detailed and progressive platform laid out on her campaign website, including refusing “funding from developers in order to oppose over-gentrification and uphold housing justice reforms” and supporting free college and Mayor Bill de Blasio’s Pre-K for All initiative.
Other reforms she wants to support are ending cash bail and mass incarceration and expanding paid parental leave for up to 12 months, according to her website.
One point on which she differs with her opponent is on Amazon’s now defunct HQ2 plan to build its second headquarters in Long Island City last year.
Nolan was a staunch supporter of the idea, saying it would create many new jobs for the neighborhood. Jobaida believed the opposite, saying in the QNS article that Amazon would be a poor corporate neighbor and wouldn’t hire the locals for its 25,000 new jobs.
The incumbent, on the other hand, is a moderate Democrat, the Deputy Speaker of the assembly as of 2018, was a 12-year member of the Education Committee and serves on the Ways and Means Committee and Veterans’ Affairs Committee, according to her biography on the state assembly’s website.
She has worked to reduce class size in public schools, improve high school graduation rates and help instate the mayor’s Pre-K for All campaign that Jobaida is a supporter of.
“I welcome all challengers in our beautiful free country since I have been an independent Democrat my entire career,” Nolan was quoted as saying in the QNS piece. “I love representing the people of the 37th Assembly District. It is a great privilege and responsibility I take seriously every day.”
The race for the 37th seat in some ways echoes the presidential Democratic primary race, in which voters will have to decide — moderate or progressive.
However, another aspect of the two candidates’ campaigns can make the decision for voters.
When it comes to campaign finance, Nolan is listed as having $72,852.89 as of January, whereas Jobaida has no funding at all — at least not listed publicly — and it’s unclear why this is.
Neither candidate responded to requests for comment