June 25, 2019 By Laura Hanrahan
Political newcomer Tiffany Cabán is on the verge of pulling off a stunning upset to win the Democratic nomination to be the next Queens District Attorney.
With 98.6 percent of the vote in, Cabán had generated 39.6 percent of the vote, about 1,100 votes more than Melinda Katz who pulled in about 38.3 percent of the ballots cast.
Cabán has yet to be officially named the winner, since there are about 3,500 absentee ballots that remain to be counted and Katz has not conceded.
But Cabán had no doubts that she was the winner.
“Tonight we won the Queens District Attorney’s Office,” Caban told her supporters at La Boom in Woodside.
She thanked her volunteers and said that the campaign had overcome many obstacles to win.
“When we started this thing, they said I was too young,” Cabán said. “They said I didn’t look like a district attorney. They said we couldn’t build a movements from the grass roots. They said we could not win–but we did it y’all.”
Cabán, a 31-year-old public defender who was the most progressive candidate in the race, gained momentum in recent weeks– following the endorsement of Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and the New York Times. Three months ago she was unknown outside of left wing circles and Katz was the expected victor.
Her campaign message promising criminal reforms such as ending cash bail and the decriminalization of sex work resonated with progressive voters. She said she would not prosecute low level offenses such as turnstyle jumping and said that too many black and brown people were being unfairly incarcerated.
In the days leading up to the vote, Katz and Cabán emerged as the two front runners to fill the vacant seat left by longtime District Attorney Richard A. Brown, who died last month.
The majority of endorsements for Cabán, a queer Latina and Astoria resident, came from outside of Queens including presidential candidates Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren.
Inside Queens, the majority of endorsements went to Katz with Cabán picking up a handful of endorsements largely in western Queens where the progressive wave is strongest.
Cabán made a point to thank the Queens elected officials who backed her. When she mentioned Ocasio-Cortez, the crowd started chanting “AOC, AOC, AOC.”
Katz, 53, who has served Queens for more than two decades as an Assembly Member, City Council Member and Borough President, has yet to concede and is not completely out of the race.
She spoke to her supporters in Forest Hills last night and reiterated the message that criminal justice reforms were needed. She was energized and showed no signs of bowing out of the race.
Katz’ platform, endorsed by a long list of centrist Queens Democrats and party loyalists, sought most of the same reforms as Cabán, such as the end of cash bail and the closing of Rikers Island. In fact, very little separated the candidates in terms of policy.
The race between Katz and Cabán was heated and at times personal. Earlier this month, Cabán released an ad that singled out Katz as a remnant of the Queens Democratic political machine, linking her to the real estate industry.
Just days before the election, Katz shot back, releasing an ad that called Cabán “dangerously wrong,” and stated that Cabán, who has worked as a public defender for six years, was “barely out of law school.”
But Cabán in her victory speech focused on the steps needed to fix the system and made clear that she was more than up for the job.
“The changes we are fighting for mean a fairer more equitable criminal justice system and that doesn’t come at the cost of safety.”