In what will be a major upset to the Democratic Party machine and old-guard Democrats if it holds, a progressive and openly queer Latina attorney appears to have narrowly defeated the party’s pick in the primary election to become the next district attorney for the borough of Queens in New York City.
In overwhelmingly Democratic New York, the winner of Tuesday’s Democratic primary is expected to beat any Republican challenger in the November election.
And Tiffany Cabán, a public defender who grew up in the borough’s Woodside projects, may be officially declared that winner, having defeated by a little over 1,000 votes Melinda Katz, the current Queens borough president and party favorite, according to the New York Daily News.
“Queens communities especially have shown how powerful they are,” Cabán told the Daily News Wednesday. “We are organizing our elected officials in line with our values.”
Cabán, a self-identified 31-year-old queer Latina, ran on a mission to change things in the criminal-justice system:
She ran on a platform of reform, calling for, as the Daily News explains:
the decriminalization of sex work, and said she would decline to prosecute low-level marijuana offenses, airport taxis, turnstile jumping, trespassing, disorderly conduct, loitering, drug possession and welfare fraud. Cabán also plans to end cash bail as well as civil asset forfeiture, and would reform court-imposed fines and fees.
Her campaign received national attention with the endorsement of progressives like the Notorious AOC, aka U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), and Democratic presidential candidates Sens. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, as the Washington Post reports.
But with the race so close, Katz has refused to concede, saying no winner should be declared until all the votes are counted, and promising supporters a recount if necessary. As of Wednesday, there were at least 6,300 paper ballots outstanding, according to New York City’s Board of Election, the Daily News reports:
“With such an important office at stake, every voice throughout the Borough needs to be heard and every vote needs to be counted,” Katz said in a statement Wednesday. “With thousands of ballots left to count, every voter deserves to be heard.”
However, Cabán’s apparent victory is rocking establishment Democrats still reeling from Ocasio-Cortez’s victory during last year’s midterm elections over a veteran Democratic incumbent that took her and the progressive politics she represents to Washington.
As the Daily News reports regarding Cabán’s race:
“This was a devastating blow,” explained Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Queens), the first borough elected official to endorse Cabán. “The power to excite and move voters does not lie with the machine. The progressive left is ascendant and this movement will only grow and expand from here.”
Even [New York City] Mayor [and Democratic presidential candidate Bill] de Blasio — who repeatedly refused [to] get involved in the race — crowed about the “hard-fought progressive change” Cabán represents. “This is what democracy looks like!” the mayor tweeted.
Regardless, if the count holds and Cabán is officially declared the winner, she will make history, the News reports:
Cabán is poised to become the first female Queens DA and the first person of color to hold the office. Cabán, who is queer, will also be the first openly-LGBTQ district attorney in New York state and the youngest DA ever elected in a major U.S. city at 31 years old.
Cabán promises to work with those who didn’t support her in making criminal justice more just for everyone, telling the News:
“We can all agree that the goal is number one, public safety, and two, we do it in a manner that doesn’t disproportionately criminalize black, brown, low-income and immigrant communities,” she said.