Socialist-endorsed Tiffany Cabán wins Queens district attorney primary
Queens district attorney candidate Tiffany Caban reacts as she is greeted by supporters Tuesday, June 25, 2019, in the Queens borough of New York. | Frank Franklin II / AP

QUEENS, N.Y.—The La Boom Nightclub in Woodside, Queens, was packed wall to wall with hundreds of supporters. People were chanting “Sí se Puede” and “Black and brown lives matter.” That was the scene at approximately 11:15 pm last night when Tiffany Cabán declared herself the winner in the Democratic primary for district attorney.

This was a historic victory, as it was the first competitive race for district attorney here in decades. The DA position had been held for 28 years by Richard Brown, who died two months ago.

There were eight candidates in the race, but the Queens Democratic Party put its money and resources behind Melinda Katz, the Queens borough president.

Tiffany Cabán was a virtually unknown public defender until February 2019. Cabán built a grassroots campaign that brought in community organizations, such as Make The Road, and political groups, including the Working Families Party, Citizen Action, and the DSA (Democratic Socialists of America).

Cabán is a 31-year-old of Puerto Rican heritage, a Queer-identified public defender, and a life-long Queens resident. Her working-class parents grew up in the Woodside Housing Projects, and she was raised in Richmond Hill, Queens.  Her goal is to bring racial, social, and economic justice to the communities in the district.

Her platform calls for an end to mass incarceration, stopping the war on drugs, and decriminalization of poverty. She plans to tackle corporate crime, protect immigrants and the elderly, and believes that community solutions provide real public safety.

Hundreds of volunteers knocked on 70,000 doors, handed out thousands of fliers, and talked with people in Queens neighborhoods stretching from Long Island City to South Ozone Park and the Rockaways.

All of the local Democratic Party’s resources could not save the day for Melinda Katz. On election night, her supporters gathered in Banter, a cozy bar in Forest Hills where the mood was subdued. Missing were her major endorsers, including Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

Queens is New York City’s most ethnically diverse borough, with large groups of immigrants from South America, South Asia, East Asia, Europe, and Africa. Over 160 languages are spoken in the borough.

Queens has recently been a hub of resistance to politics as usual. It’s the scene of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s election, the successful fight against Amazon, and the first all-inclusive St. Patrick’s Day parade in New York.

In 2019, the same Working Families Party-led coalition that backed Cabán defeated the IDC (Independent Democrats Coalition) that had stymied progressive advances in the New York State Senate by caucusing with Republicans.

Since the defeat of the IDC, the State Senate has passed major rent reform, cemented abortion rights, implemented early voting, and passed a bill for drivers licenses for undocumented immigrants.

One of the new Democrats is State Sen. Jessica Ramos, an early supporter of Cabán. Despite all these progressive gains, Queens also still has a base that supports Trump’s policies. The Republican challenger to John Liu, an anti-IDC Democrat, was a supporter of the Proud Boys.

Cabán was endorsed by Larry Krasner, the District Attorney from Philadelphia who led the way in the movement for transformative justice. Her national endorsers included Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez as well as Sens. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren.

Local endorsers included: NYC Comptroller Scott Stringer; NYS Senators Jessica Ramos, James Sanders, Julia Salazar, and Michael Gianaris; NYS Assemblymember Ron Kim; and NYC council members Jimmy Van Bramer and Antonio Reynoso.

Actress Susan Sarandon tweeted this morning; “@CabánForQueens victory over the ‘machine’ in Queens makes me proud to be from Jackson Heights and shows once again that a people’s movement can bring real change, real justice.”


Tina Nannarone
Tina Nannarone

Tina Nannarone writes from Queens, New York.

Gabe Falsetta
Gabe Falsetta

Long-time social justice activist Gabe Falsetta writes from New York City.