Left-wing candidate and underdog Tiffany Cabán caused a huge upset on Tuesday night when she emerged victorious over front-runner Melinda Katz in a tight Democratic primary race for Queens district attorney.
The self-described ‘democratic socialist’, 31, who received the backing of fellow progressives Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Bernie Sanders, garnered 39.6 percent of the votes – a slender lead over Katz’s 38.3, with 99 percent of all precincts confirming.
Topping the polls by 1.3 percent, a recount remains uncertain as the lead is above the 0.5-point threshold that would make such a motion mandatory.
Around 3,400 ballots still remain unaccounted for, and Katz would need to haul the vast majority of them to eviscerate the 1,090-vote deficit she’d suffered against Cabán as of Wednesday morning.
Left-wing candidate and former underdog Tiffany Cabán caused a huge upset on Tuesday night when she emerged victorious over front-runner Melinda Katz in a tight Democratic primary race for Queens district attorney
The self-described ‘democratic socialist’ garnered 39.6 percent of the votes – a slender lead over Belinda Katz’s 38.3, with 99 percent of precincts confirming
Board of Elections officials have said the tally might not be completed for another seven days. In the meantime, Katz has refused to concede.
‘They said I didn’t look like a district attorney. They said I was too young,’ a defiant Cabán told a gathering crowd of cheering supporters at La Boom nightclub in the early hours of Wednesday morning.
‘They said we could not build a movement from the grassroots. They said we could not win — but we did it, y’all.
‘We built a campaign to reduce recidivism, decriminalize poverty, end mass incarceration, and to protect our immigrant communities. To keep people rooted in their communities with the access to support and services.’
The 31-year-old’s campaign was largely shrouded in controversy after she declared the decriminalization of sex work would be one of her core policies, fiercely dividing opinion.
‘Queens is going to be the borough for sex tourism in the city,’ she told the New York Post.
Katz has refused to concede to Cabán while she pushes for a recount following a closely fought race
Cabán pledged to cease prosecuting the customers of sex workers, believing such measures to be cutting off vital economic avenues for some of society’s most vulnerable women.
‘When you criminalize customers, what you actually do is, you’re cutting off economic access for folks who don’t have any other way to support themselves,’ she said.
The young candidate has also called for increasing funding for programs which provide an alternative to mass incarceration and bring an end to ‘broken windows’ policing strategy for tackling low-level crime.
‘What we’ve seen is broken-windows policing and prosecution really be weaponized against our black and brown, low-income and immigrant communities,’ Cabán told CBS.
‘And it hasn’t resulted in increased public safety and what we should be doing is focusing on the root causes of crime – understanding that widespread destabilization drives crimes, whether it is low-level, non-violent or violent offenses.’
The 31-year-old’s campaign was largely shrouded in controversy, after she made declarations to decriminalize sex work as one of her core policies, fiercely dividing opinion
In response to Wednesday’s shock poll results, Katz has said she believes a recount in the six-way race is only fair as no candidate came anywhere near reaching 50 percent of the overall vote.
‘We always knew this was going to be tough, because if it wasn’t tough, it wouldn’t be a race,’ Katz said.
‘There’s a lot of thank-yous to be made and a lot more days until a recount, but I didn’t want tonight to go by without thanking so many of you.’
Cabán’s most high-profile political supporters shared their delight at the result on Twitter, with AOC posting ‘We meet a machine with a movement,’ in her congratulatory message.
Sanders soon echoed the same sentiments, claiming: ‘Tiffany Cabán took on virtually the entire political establishment and built a grassroots movement.
‘This is a victory for working people everywhere who are fighting for real political change and demanding we end cash bail, mass incarceration and the failed war on drugs,’ the Vermont socialist continued.
Fellow progressives Bernie Sanders and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez tweeted their delight at the shock result on Wednesday, having made public declarations about Cabán’s credentials during the campaign
The insurgent’s unexpected victory is reminiscent of democratic socialist counterpart AOC’s victory against nine-term congressional stalwart Joe Crowley in a Democratic primary race last year
Largely considered to be one of the most diverse counties in the US, Queens has a population in excess of 2.5 million, yet just over 85,000 turned out to vote.
The dwindling figures may have actually proved to be an advantage to Cabán, who was issued high amounts of external funding from progressive groups.
Senator Elizabeth Warren and the New York Times also made public endorsements for Cabán’s cause.
The insurgent’s unexpected victory is reminiscent of democratic socialist counterpart AOC’s victory against nine-term congressional stalwart Joe Crowley in a Democratic primary race last year.
‘This campaign started with just four women, sitting around a kitchen table, saying: we have to change the system,’ Cabán tweeted on Wednesday morning.
‘So I did what many thought was unthinkable for a 31-year-old Queer Latina public defender whose parents grew up in the Woodside Houses. I decided to run.’