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Queer Latina in Queens D.A. Race Fights On as Rival Claims Victory

Tiffany Caban and Melinda Katz
From left: Tiffany Caban and Melinda Katz

Melinda Katz declared victory after a recount, but Tiffany Caban says it's not over.

Melinda Katz has declared victory over queer Latina Tiffany Caban in the Democratic primary for district attorney in New York City's borough of Queens, but Caban is vowing to fight on.

Caban, a public defender who campaigned on a platform of criminal justice reform, looked like the winner on election night, June 25, with a lead of 1,090 votes over Katz, currently the borough president. Absentee ballots counted later, though, went mostly to Katz. After a manual recount extending over two weeks, Katz has built up a lead of 60 votes, and she claimed victory Thursday, the New York Post reports. They were the top two vote recipients among seven candidates in the race.

The New York City Board of Elections has yet to announce the results and is expected to do so later today, but Katz spokesman Andrew Kirtzman issued a statement saying, "Now that every valid vote has been counted and recounted, the results confirm once again that the people of Queens have chosen Melinda Katz as the Democratic nominee for District Attorney."

Caban, however, said the election isn't decided. There are 114 provisional ballots that are the subject of a court battle. They were disqualified because voters hadn't properly filled out the accompanying paperwork, but Caban believes that decision was wrong.

"We are going to continue to fight to make sure that every single valid vote is counted," Caban said, according to AM New York. The next court date in the case is August 6.

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.

Caban offered 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.

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."

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