Progressive queer Latina Tiffany Caban appears to have won the Democratic primary for Queens County district attorney, poising her to become the first out D.A. in any of New York City's boroughs.
With 99 percent of precincts reporting about 11:30 p.m. Eastern, Caban was leading her closest challenger, Borough President Melinda Katz, by 39.6 percent to 38.3 percent, according to The New York Times. The margin between them was 1,090 votes. Local media had yet to call the race for Caban, but the LGBTQ Victory Fund, which had endorsed her, pronounced her the winner, and she claimed victory in speaking to her supporters. Katz vowed to seek a recount, however, the New York Daily News reports. There are also thousands of absentee ballots to be counted, and that likely won't happen for a week.
In November the winner of the Democratic primary will face Republican Daniel Kogan, but the Democrat is almost assured of victory. No Republican has been elected Queens D.A. since 1920, the Times notes.
Caban, who has worked as a public defender, ran on a platform of reform, offering a marked contrast to predecessor Richard Brown, who died in May after holding the office for 28 years. He and his staff took a "tough on crime" approach, favoring aggressive punishments for minor crimes, like low-level marijuana offenses. Queens prosecutors "regularly press defendants to accept plea deals before they have been indicted and can see the evidence against them," according to the Times.
This approach came down particularly hard on people who are poor and/or members of racial minority groups. The borough has seen great racial disparities in prosecutions but has no unit dedicated to addressing wrongful convictions.
"Ours is a system where we feed into a prison-industrial complex that literally is a business profiting off of raping our Black and brown, low-income, immigrant, and LGBTQ communities," Caban told The Advocate before the election. "That has to stop."
There were seven candidates in the race, and Caban and Katz were far ahead of the others. One of the seven, Rory Lancman, dropped out recently, but his name still appeared on the ballot.
Caban received many high-profile endorsements, including those of the Times, U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and U.S. Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders.
She was jubilant in speaking to her supporters Tuesday night, the Associated Press reports. "When we started this thing, they said I was too young. They said I didn't look like a district attorney. They said we could not build a movement from the grass roots. They said we could not win. But we did it, y'all," she said.
Victory Fund President and CEO Annise Parker released the following statement: "Tiffany Caban pulled off an upset victory because of her deep connection to the community and her desire to reform a system that for too long failed the people it was meant to serve. As a queer woman and a Latina, she understands the inequities of the criminal justice system in Queens County -- its terrible and disproportionate impact on people of color and transgender people -- and will use that to implement real policy reform. Tiffany is a tireless advocate and leader, and her impact will extend well beyond the borders of Queens County."