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AOC-Backed Progressive Tiffany Caban Declares Victory in Queens DA Race
Written by <a href="index.php?option=com_comprofiler&task=userProfile&user=37714"><span class="small">Gideon Resnick, The Daily Beast</span></a>   
Wednesday, 26 June 2019 08:20

Resnick writes: "Another earthshaking political upset roared through Queens, New York, on Tuesday night."

Tiffany Cabán, center, declared victory at her election night party on Tuesday, but the official outcome still awaits a count of absentee ballots. (photo: Gabriela Bhaskar/The New York Times)
Tiffany Cabán, center, declared victory at her election night party on Tuesday, but the official outcome still awaits a count of absentee ballots. (photo: Gabriela Bhaskar/The New York Times)

AOC-Backed Progressive Tiffany Cabán Declares Victory in Queens DA Race

By Gideon Resnick, The Daily Beast

26 June 19

The 31-year-old leftist public defender appears poised to take charge of one of the largest jurisdictions in the country.

nother earthshaking political upset roared through Queens, New York, on Tuesday night. 

Nearly a year to the day after Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez shocked the national political scene with her primary upset win against powerful House Democrat Joe Crowley, Tiffany Cabán claimed victory in a six-person primary race for Queens District Attorney, the first competitive race there in a generation, even as leading opponent and Queens Borough President Melinda Katz refused to concede Tuesday evening and the Associated Press had yet to call the race Wednesday morning.

Cabán led Katz by about 1,100 votes in the low-turnout contest, with 3,400 absentee ballots yet to be counted, a process that could take weeks.

With high-profile endorsements from Rep. Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) and then Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Elizabeth Warren, Cabán, a 31-year-old Latina public defender who identifies as queer, would be poised with a win to take charge of one of the largest jurisdiction populations in the country, with nearly 2.4 million people living in Queens.

Her platform of “people-powered justice,” including ending cash bail, not prosecuting subway turnstile jumping, prosecuting the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency, closing Rikers Island and decriminalizing sex work marks a massive departure from the traditional tough-on-crime, prosecutorial approach of DAs around the country including the longtime Queens DA, Richard Brown.

Cabán's performance was an unprecedented victory for the rising left in a borough-wide campaign, and a sign of the energy around the criminal-justice movement in local races nationwide. 

At her election night event at the La Boom nightclub, nestled next to a Volkswagen dealership, a diverse crowd of supporters erupted into a frenzy every time local news station NY1 updated the numbers in the extremely close race. They chanted “People Power!” “Tiffany, Tiffany, Tiffany!” and “Black Lives Matter” as the packed room shifted between nerves and excitement. When the DJ announced that the bar was closing at 10 p.m., people milled about under throbbing halos of green and red lights.

“When we started this thing they said I was too young. They said I didn’t look like a district attorney,” Cabán said stepping to the microphone a little after 11 as she continued to lead with 99 percent of precincts reporting. “They said we could not win but we did, it y’all.”

In an indicator of how significant the primary race is in the heavily Democratic borough, Cabán declared: “Tonight, we won the Queens District Attorney’s Office!”

Among the candidates the political neophyte dispatched were Gregory Lasak, a former judge who drew support from law enforcement unions, and Katz, who had strong institutional and union support from the borough’s Democratic machine including Crowley. Katz also was backed by Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-NY), who took over for Crowley as the chair of the Queens Democratic Party. 

After being endorsed by the Working Families Party and Democratic Socialists of America, Cabán gained more national headlines as endorsements piled up, with two 2020 presidential candidates, Senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, throwing their support behind her, along with Rep. Cortez and The New York Times. The endorsements from the presidential candidates appeared to rub Meeks the wrong way, who tweeted: “If either of them wants to be President, I suggest they speak with us before they decide to speak for us.”

But they and the Times ultimately did pick the candidate voters wanted. 

“Ms. Cabán identifies as a queer Latina,” the Times wrote in its endorsement. “She is of Puerto Rican descent and is the first in her family to graduate from college. She would bring a perspective suited to one of the world’s most diverse communities, one where elected officials have rarely reflected that reality.”

Her victory, which will pit her against Republican Daniel Kogan in the general election in November, comes as a wave of more progressive prosecutors have been elected throughout the country, including Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner, St. Louis County Prosecutor Wesley Bell, and Suffolk County District Attorney Rachael Rollins. 

The second major upset in Queens in the past year represents a broader leftward lurch in the city with more organizing and resources devoted to down-ballot races and progressive causes. Last September, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo dispatched a high-profile challenge from Cynthia Nixon but a host of state senators in the Independent Democratic Conference or IDC lost to primary challengers, which has resulted in the passage of a progressive agenda that had long been stymied in Albany. Progressives also helped lead a major backlash to the planned construction of an Amazon campus in Long Island City. 

Cabán—who has talked about decriminalizing sex work and also talked about arresting ICE agents in courtrooms—envisions an office that will not evaluate performance based on convictions but rather reduced incarceration and recidivism and increased community engagement, and that will provide updated information about sentencing policies, arrest rates and charging decisions.

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Last Updated on Wednesday, 26 June 2019 10:22