After much anticipation, grassroots organizing and online support, public defender Tiffany Cabán is predicted to have won the Democratic primary for district attorney (DA) in Queens. Her campaign gained national attention for its progressive nature —drawing comparisons with Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez— and for the possibility of her becoming the first Queer Latina to become DA.
During her campaign, she secured endorsements from Democratic big shots like Senators Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders, and Ocasio-Cortez.
“Tiffany Cabán took on virtually the entire political establishment and built a grassroots movement to win. Her victory is a victory not just for the people of Queens, but for working people everywhere who are fighting for real political change and demanding we end cash bail, mass incarceration and the failed war on drugs,” said Sanders in a press statement.
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.
When people come together, we can beat big money in elections. People power is no fluke. https://t.co/hsJx7p3REN
— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@AOC) June 26, 2019
On Tuesday night, she narrowly claimed victory over five other candidates, leading over Queens Borough President, Melinda Katz —who has not conceded— by about 1,090 votes, and Greg Lasak, who was endorsed by the New York Daily News and the New York Post. On Wednesday afternoon, some are reporting that the race is too close to call.
Cabán’s potential win signals a growing trend of successful progressive campaigns like that of Ocasio-Cortez (in Congress) and Jessica Ramos (in NY State Senate), that prove the electability of young women of color.
Tiffany Caban at her victory speech:
“I’m a 31-year-old queer Latina public defender whose parents grew up in the Woodside housing projects. And I decided to run.” pic.twitter.com/TJY1JQ1Ib5
— Erick Fernandez (@ErickFernandez) June 26, 2019
If she wins against the Republican candidate during the general election —which she is predicted to— a victory like hers would imply a great change of pace for Queens, which houses over 2.3 million people, 48 percent of them being foreign-born. The previous DA, the late Richard A. Brown, held the position for 28 years before passing away in May of this year.
“I am running to transform the Queens District Attorney’s office after years of witnessing its abuses on the front lines,” Cabán writes on her campaign page.
Her campaign platform focused more changing the criminal justice system within the borough, and less on combating her opponents. Some of her focus points were ending mass incarceration, decriminalizing poverty, ending the war on drugs, and serving immigrant communities.
The changes we are fighting for will mean a fairer and more equitable and more effective criminal justice system.
That doesn't come at the cost of safety—it is the source of safety.
— Tiffany Cabán (@CabanForQueens) June 26, 2019
Cabán hopes that prosecuting less, ending cash bail, relaxing misdemeanor charges, and giving shorter sentences will help even out the racial and economic disparities in the criminal justice system.
She’s also promised to not prosecute drug-related charges, including use of recreational marijuana, and opting for treating addiction of stronger substances as a medical issue and prosecuting doctors who overprescribe medication instead of prosecuting patients.
Similarly, she hopes to tackle homelessness by going after abusive landlords and not the poor or undocumented people in her district who are left without a choice.
In the last couple of months, Cabán has also been vocal about decriminalizing sex work, an issue many have spoken against, especially as there’s fear of increased trafficking.
“Through decriminalization, you make it safe for survivors and victims to go to law enforcement and be the witnesses needed to hold these traffickers, who are doing harm, accountable,” she said during an interview with CBS News.
She was born and raised in Queens to Puerto Rican parents, and after graduating from New York Law School, she became a public defender, a position she held for seven years.
The general election for District Attorney will be held in November.
Latino Rebels has reached out to the Cabán campaign and the Melinda Katz campaign for comment.
Natalia Rodríguez Medina is the 2019 summer correspondent for Latino Rebels. She is a member the Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism at CUNY’s Class of 2019. Natalia tweets from @nataliarodmed.