The likely victory of a progressive young candidate in Queens, NY – an area with a population larger than 15 American States, – reflects the major upheavel in American criminal justice. Chesa Boudin in San Francisco is running on a similiar platform of a thorough recalibration of the criminal law environment. It also puts on full display the wide spread opposition and dismay toward the current regime in Washington, DC
Excerpted from Vox 6.26.2019
Tiffany Cabán seems poised to win in Tuesday’s Democratic primary in the Queens district attorney race — potentially giving a big victory to criminal justice reformers who want to end the war on drugs and mass incarceration.
The Queens race may seem like a small local news story. But it’s not — Queens has more people than 15 states and Washington, DC, so the race is a huge deal to a lot of people. And this is the kind of story that really matters for criminal justice reform, because district attorneys and other prosecutors hold tremendous power over the systems that oversee all incarceration in the US.
The race was too close to call as of early Wednesday afternoon. But Cabán declared victory late Tuesday night, telling the crowd at her watch party, “We did it, y’all.” New York Working Families Party Director Bill Lipton described the likely victory in sweeping terms: “Queens is turned upside down. Giants fall and empires crumble.”
With 99 percent of precincts reporting, Cabán, a 31-year-old public defender, led Melinda Katz, Queens borough president, by nearly 1,100 votes, or around 1.3 percentage points, in a field of six candidates (although seven remain on the ballot). About 3,400 absentee ballots remain to be counted. The final results may not be known until July 3, according to the New York Times.
A victory in the primary is expected to be a win in the overall district attorney race in Democrat-heavy Queens, which will be decided in November.
Cabán ran on a very progressive platform, focused on racial justice and criminal justice reform. She promised to end cash bail; decriminalize drugs, sex work, subway turnstile jumping, and other crimes of poverty; and set up an internal unit to review wrongful convictions. When I spoke to Cabán in May, she also talked about taking violent crimes seriously — speaking to the duality that minority communities face in that they often feel law enforcement simultaneously over-polices them for minor crimes but under-polices them for serious ones.