June 24, 2019 By Laura Hanrahan and Christian Murray
State Senator Michael Gianaris endorsed public defender Tiffany Cabán, 31, over the weekend in the contentious race for Queens District Attorney.
“I’m interested in supporting someone who is going to bring real change to the prosecutor’s office,” Gianaris said when he made the announcement. “Tiffany Cabán is the best choice to do that.”
Gianaris’ support of Cabán, who is running the most progressive platform in the race, has come just days before the June 25 election. Gianaris’ 11th-hour endorsement falls in line with his recent move to the left, including his staunch opposition to Amazon’s proposed Long Island City headquarters late last year and his decision to no longer accept real estate money.
His endorsement is indicative, however, of a growing chasm among Queens Democrats, where former party loyalists are now supporting a progressive candidate like Cabán or are remaining silent by not supporting the Queens County Democratic Party’s favorite—Melinda Katz– at all.
“The AOC victory weakened the machine and its grip. It’s emboldened some officials,” said Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer, an early supporter of Cabán. “The machine is dying and they see this race as an existential threat. Their power is shrinking by the day.”
Cabán, a queer Latina who lives in Astoria, has seen a lot of her support come from outside of Queens. She has received the endorsements of national figures like Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, as well as from progressive leaders such as Cynthia Nixon, Zephyr Teachout and NYC Comptroller Scott Stringer.
In Queens, the elected officials who have come forward to support her are mainly from the western portion of the borough, where the progressive wave is in full force—buoyed by Congresswoman’s Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez stunning victory over Joe Crowley last year.
Cabán has received the endorsements of Ocasio-Cortez, State Senator Jessica Ramos, who represents the greater Jackson Heights district, along with Assembly Member Ron Kim of Flushing, and State Senator James Sanders of South Ozone Park. Council Member Van Bramer endorsed Cabán in April.
Meanwhile, Council Members Costa Constantinides and Daniel Dromm have decided not to endorse. Assembly Members Catalina Cruz, Aravella Simotas and Brian Barnwell have also remained on the sidelines.
But Governor Andrew Cuomo, a Katz supporter, said that many Democrats, like Gianaris, have not endorsed Katz because they are afraid of being challenged by the left.
“They’re afraid of a primary from the left, and in low-turnout elections, the so-called ‘Joe Crowley Effect,’ where nobody votes but a small base of motivated people does turn out and they lose. So they — some of them — are tripping over themselves on their way to the left to appease this activist, younger demographic,” he said today on WAMC’s “The Roundtable”.
Centrist Queens Democrats and party loyalists are sticking with Katz however, providing her a long list of endorsements from elected officials.
Assembly Member Catharine Nolan, for example, endorsed Katz last week.
Nolan cited Katz’s legal experience and “track record of public service,” categorizing Katz as a candidate who “has taken on powerful interests and fought for progressive change.”
Katz, 53, is a well-known Forest Hills resident who has served Queens for more than two decades as an Assembly Member, City Council Member and Borough President.
The leader of the Queens County Democratic Party, Gregory Meeks, has remained staunchly behind Katz and has been critical of outsiders such as Sanders and Warren for endorsing Cabán.
“African Americans have the largest stake in this DA race, from reforming the criminal justice system, to ending racial disparities and stopping mass incarceration. Yet Warren and Sanders saw fit to endorse without even considering what African Americans thought,” Meeks said in a release.
Former Congressman Joseph Crowley, who was unseated in 2018 by Ocasio-Cortez, sent an email blast on Thursday, asking for support and donations on behalf of Katz.
Katz still has the backing of most Democrats in Queens, including Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney; State Senators Joseph Addabbo, Leroy Comrie, John Liu and Toby Ann Satavisky; Assembly Members Andrew Hevesi, Alicia Hyndman, Stacey Pheffer Amato, David Weprin, Mike Miller, Michael DenDekker and Jeffrion Aubry; and Council Members Karen Koslowitz, Peter Koo, Daneek Miller, Donovan Richards, Paul Vallone, Robert Holden and Francisco Moya.
Council Member Rory Lancman, who dropped out of the race on Friday, threw his support behind Katz.
“She has made the effort to successfully garner support within every community in our borough,” Lancman said on Friday.
But Greg Lasak, one of the six contenders in Tuesday’s race, said that Lancman’s decision was just the party machine in action.
“Lets be clear on what this is,” Lasak wrote in an e-mail. “The political machine wants to make sure their chosen candidate wins and they’re not above making backroom deals to make it happen.”
The election takes place Tuesday, June 25. Polls open at 6 a.m. and close at 9 p.m.
Where to vote
Polling locations can be found online at nyc.pollsitelocator.com.
The candidates for the Queens DA race are:
Tiffany Cabán, a public defender
Melinda Katz, the current Queens borough president
Gregory Lasak, a former Queens County State Supreme Court justice and Queens prosecutor
Betty Lugo, an attorney and founder of the law firm, Pacheco & Lugo, PLLC
José Nieves, a former prosecutor in the NYS Attorney General’s Office
Mina Quinto Malik, a former special victims prosecutor in Queens, Special Counsel at the Brooklyn district attorney office and deputy attorney general of the District of Columbia.