June 26, 2019 By Laura Hanrahan
As election results rolled in last night for the Queens District Attorney race, a stark contrast appeared between voters in eastern and western Queens.
Support for Tiffany Cabán, a 31-year-old queer Latina public defender, was overwhelmingly strong on the western side of the borough, particularly in Astoria, Long Island City and Ridgewood where political views have shifted heavily to the left in recent years.
By the end of the night, Cabán, a newcomer to politics, earned a small lead overall of 1,090 votes over Melinda Katz and declared victory shortly after 11 p.m. With close to 3,400 absentee ballots left to count in the election, Katz has not yet conceded, stating that every vote must be counted.
Last night’s results reaffirmed that longstanding elected officials, particularly in the rapidly gentrifying areas of western Queens, are at risk of being replaced by progressive newcomers looking to shake up the system.
Just last year, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a vocal supporter of Cabán, unseated decadeslong Congressman Joseph Crowley using a people-powered grassroots campaign.
The long-serving political leaders in these areas appear to have differing views from the majority of their constituents.
Assemblymember Catharine Nolan (District 37), who has represented Long Island City, as well as parts of Sunnyside and Ridgewood, for 35 years, endorsed Katz on Friday, stating that “we need someone with Melinda’s legal expertise and track record of public service in the DA’s office.”
As results came in, Nolan’s district had a clear preference for the democratic socialist candidate, with Cabán trouncing Katz with 4,658 votes to Katz’s 1,364.
Katz endorser Assembly Member Michael DenDekker (District 34), who has represented Woodside, Jackson Heights, and East Elmhurst for 11 years, saw similar clear support for the young public defender. Cabán received more than double the votes of Katz in DenDekker’s district.
“Western Queens came out in big numbers and voted in landslide proportions for Tiffany Cabán, demonstrating the power of the progressive left to win elections,” said Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer, who was the first Queens elected official to endorse Cabán. “It’s a devastating blow to the machine and the establishment and I believe you will see more progressive candidates in each cycle and that includes next year’s state legislative races.”
The election results not only show a disconnect between leaders and constituents, but illustrated a discernible split within the borough. In central Queens (District 28), Katz barely squeaked by to surpass Cabán in several areas, including Rego Park, Middle Village and Forest Hills, largely due competitor Gregory Lasak took home a sizeable number of votes.
However, in south eastern Queens, Katz was the clear favorite. The Borough President earned nearly triple the number of votes when compared to Cabán in Jamaica, St. Albans and Laurelton.
Council Member Rory Lancman dropped out of the DA race on Thursday, just five days before the election, wanting to avoid the risk of a vote split, similar to what was seen in central Queen, in the south eastern portion of the borough where support for both Katz and Lancman was high.
In her speech at last night’s campaign event, Cabán vowed to win over those who had not voted for her.
“Whether I earned your vote or not, I will work every day to earn your trust,” Cabán said. “Transforming the system will not be easy, it will not happen overnight, but I am ready. We are ready.”
The remaining absentee ballots are expected to be counted in the coming weeks, with Board of Elections officials saying a final tally may not be given until July 3. The winner of yesterday’s Democratic primary will be the overwhelming favorite in November’s general election against Republican candidate Daniel Kogan.
Last night, only 11 percent of registered Queens Democrats voted.