Tiffany Cabán Declares Victory in Queens DA Race

Tiffany Cabán claimed victory in a contentious Democratic primary for Queens district attorney on June 25. Cabán, a public defender, leads Queens Borough President Melinda Katz by 1.3 percentage points with 99 percent of precincts reporting. Cabán and her supporters celebrated her victory shortly after 11 p.m. on June 25 at her election night headquarters, the Associated Press (AP) reported. “When we started this thing, they said I was too young. They said I didn’t look like a district attorney. They said we could not build a movement from the grassroots,” she said. “They said we could not win. But we did it y’all.”

With less than a dozen precincts left to report, Cabán leads with 33,814 votes over Katz’s 32,724 votes, according to The New York Times.The public defender, who ran a grassroots campaign, told New York magazine earlier in June that she was committed to changing the way New Yorkers look at criminal behavior.

“When I decided to run in this race,” she said, “I went in knowing this is harm reduction in a lot of ways, because there’s such a powerful structure in place that really is designed to have certain kinds of outcomes. But we can start dismantling that.” Cabán said she views many crimes as a symptom of deeper issues, including poverty, lack of education, and trauma. In order to address those issues, it is necessary to change the culture of punishment, she told New York magazine.“Stability equals public safety, so when we’re talking about nonviolent offenses, there are so many ways that we can make survivors and victims whole and support them, while also supporting the person that’s found themselves touching the criminal justice system,” she said.

The 31-year-old also noted that she would not make a distinction between violent and nonviolent crimes in order to help “dismantle the system of mass incarceration” and promote the “understanding that it’s not about what the nature of the crime is so often but what the driver and causer of the behavior is and what we can do to stop it, to interrupt it, to change it, and we should be looking to do that in every way we possibly can that doesn’t involve putting somebody in a cage.”Cabán received the endorsement of several members of Congress, including Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), and Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.). She was also endorsed by Rachael Rollins and Larry Krasner, two criminal justice reformers who won top prosecutor jobs in Boston and Philadelphia respectively.Ocasio-Cortez, whose 14th District partly lies in Queens, endorsed Cabán in May and celebrated her election gains on Twitter.

“I am so incredibly proud of @CabanForQueens — and EVERY single person who showed up for this election today. No matter how this ends, you all have stunned NY politics tonight,” she tweeted. “When people come together, we can beat big money in elections. People power is no fluke.”Despite claiming victory, the race will not be decided until thousands of absentee ballots are counted over the next several days. Officials at the Board of Elections said the final count may not be done until July 3.

Katz, a career politician regarded as the favorite of the Queens County Democratic Party, told her supporters that the race was far from over. “We always knew this was going to be tough, if it wasn’t tough, it wasn’t a race,” Katz said at her watch party in Forest Hills, according to the AP. The local Democratic party suffered a similar defeat last year. Longstanding incumbent Joseph Crowley, a local party leader with a leadership position in the House of Representatives, lost his primary to Ocasio-Cortez. This year, the party and several unions put their weight behind Katz, and they may be headed toward a similar outcome.

Katz’s loss would “be a huge loss for the machine,” Fordham University associate professor of political science Christina Greer told The New York Times. “Cabán made some strong arguments to voters about a new vision for a 21st century district attorney.”Cabán’s campaign told The New York Times that it was comfortable declaring her the winner because the 3,400 absentee ballots that have yet to be counted will likely be divided among the seven candidates on the ballot.

About the Author

Nicole Rojas is a breaking news writer for The North Star. She has published in various venues, including Newsweek, GlobalPost, IHS Jane’s Defence Weekly, and the Long Island Post. Nicole graduated from Boston University in 2012 with a degree in print journalism. She is an avid world traveler who recently explored Asia and Australia.