Aug. 7, 2019 By Allie Griffin
The fierce six-weeks-long battle between Public Defender Tiffany Cabán and Queens Borough President Melinda Katz has finally ended when Cabán conceded in the DA primary race Tuesday.
After she failed to win back enough ballots to surpass Katz’s narrow lead in a court decision yesterday, Cabán announced her concession at Katch beer garden in Astoria last night to a crowd of about 150 people. The final margin separating the candidates was just 55 votes.
State Sen. Mike Gianaris and Assembly Member Ron Kim were among the electeds at the party, a thank you event for her volunteers. From Katch’s back patio, Cabán made her concession announcement and admitted that she was a political newcomer up against the establishment favorite.
“I am a 32-year-old queer Latina public defender. I don’t look like our politicians, I don’t sound like most of them. I’d never run a campaign before.”
After the June 25 primary’s results came in, Cabán originally declared victory with more than 1,100 votes ahead of Katz, but when affidavit and absentee ballots were counted, Katz jumped ahead by a mere 16 votes. The slim margin called for a weeks-long manual recount in which more than 90,000 ballots were sorted and recounted. At its completion, Katz came out as the winner by a 60 vote difference.
Then on July 29, the Board of Elections certified the results and declared Katz winner, but it wasn’t over yet. Next came the court battle with Cabán’s campaign challenging dozens of ballots that it said had been wrongly invalidated.
On Tuesday, the judge presiding over the hearing reviewed the ballots in question at a Board of Elections office in Forest Hills, but with only a handful of votes revalidated — the final count gave Katz a 55 vote lead. Cabán then decided to concede rather than continue in court.
“I want to thank Tiffany Cabán for bringing closure to this long and hard-fought race,” Katz said in a statement. “Too often, the process of primary campaigns obscures the vast commonalities we share as Democrats and reformers. We all want a safe Queens where everyone is treated equally.”
While Cabán may have lost, she was proud of what she had accomplished in pushing her party to adopt more liberal policies.
“We completely transformed the conversation around criminal justice reform in this city. We forced the next District Attorney to end ALL cash bail,” Cabán said. “We pushed the decriminalization of sex work into the Presidential campaign.”
She added, “We may have scared Cy Vance out of even running again. And trust me—we terrified the Democratic establishment.”
The New York Working Families Party agreed. “Tiffany Caban transformed the debate on criminal justice reform, not just in Queens but across the city and country as well,” the party’s State Director Bill Lipton said in a statement. “She proved that progressive campaigns and the progressive movement can succeed across a borough as big and diverse as Queens, and that voters want fundamental changes to our justice system. We hope more courageous candidates like Tiffany run for office everywhere.”
While Lipton congratulated Katz, he critiqued the voting system. “This race also exposed how broken our election system remains,” he said. “Let’s be clear: eligible Queens voters were disenfranchised by the mistakes and incompetence of the BOE. We must enact reforms to ensure that every vote is counted.”
Cabán encouraged those she inspired to run and promised to help them along the way.
“To every young person, to every woman, to every person of color, to every Queer person, every single human being who was inspired by the campaign we built—you are next. And I promise, I will be the first one knocking doors for you.”