On June 25, Democratic voters in Queens County voted in the Democratic primary for a nominee to represent their party in the Queens District Attorney (DA) race. The death of Richard Brown, 86, the former Queens DA, had left an empty seat for the taking. There were five candidates competing for the Democratic nomination: the frontrunners Melinda Katz, 53, the current Queens Borough President and Tiffany Cabán, 31. Katz prevailed over Cabán by a mere 55 votes.
According to the New York Times, Cabán announced a win on June 25th. However, it was not the end of the road for this primary. Cabán claimed to have beaten Katz with 1,100 votes, but by early July, after counting absentee and affidavit ballots, Katz was named the frontrunner by 20 votes. Because these results were so close, it prompted a manual recount of all the votes as required by the New York City Board of Elections.
Upon re-examination of all the votes, Katz’s lead was strengthened, at that point having a total of 60 votes more than Cabán. Then, as the Queen’s Eagle reports, the campaigns appeared in court before Judge John G. Ingram for a decision regarding 114 affidavit ballots excluded from the recount due to voters’ failure to write “Democrat.” The Cabán campaign had hoped that inclusion of these ballots would help put her back in the lead, though in the end, the judge ruled against including most of them, said the NY Times . This allowed Katz to assert her win as the Democratic nominee in August.
“The election(s) showed how important it is to vote, and for the public to take an active role in politics,” said L. Snow, a senior and a psychology major.
The electoral contest also experienced heightened salience since it was impacted by national politics. Cabán, a progressive Democratic Socialist, was endorsed by a Democratic presidential nominee candidates Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, said the NY Times. She was also supported by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a Democratic Socialist who beat Congressman Joe Crowley in the Democratic primary in June 2018. On the other hand, Katz was supported by Governor Andrew Cuomo and various unions, Politico reports.
According to the NY Times, the competition between Katz and Cabán has been seen as a race between the more centrist, “establishment” faction of the Democratic party against the more progressive, liberal side – Katz ascribing to the former and Cabán to the latter. Cabán’s progressive campaign probably caused Katz to pivot to the left.
Cabán’s campaign was grass-roots oriented, and was run on a progressive campaign platform dedicated to reduce the number of incarcerations, decriminalize recreational use of marijuana and other drugs, and prosecute ICE. Katz also campaigned on advocating for legalizing recreational marijuana and fixing the criminal justice system along with decreasing gun violence and fighting hate crimes.
The general election for Queens DA will be held on November 5th. Katz, as Democratic nominee, will be up against Republican Joe Murray.