The Democratic primary in the Queens District Attorney’s race took an unexpected, and some say stunning, turnabout July 3, with Melinda Katz, who had been trailing Tiffany Cabán by about 1,100 votes, vaulting into the lead by 20 votes when a tally of paper ballots was completed.
Among roughly 3,400 absentee and affidavit ballots, Ms. Katz, the Borough President, received 1,901 to 751 for Ms. Cabán to nudge ahead, according to several media reports. The rest were divided among the other five candidates, one of whom, City Councilman Rory Lancman, withdrew from the race four days before the vote but remained on the ballot and finished fifth.
Recount Starts July 9
That slim lead which dipped to 16 after six affidavit ballots were tallied, triggered an automatic recount, which will entail poll workers tabulating the roughly 90,000 ballots by hand and eye beginning July 9.
While acknowledging that the recount will take place, Ms. Katz released a statement late July 3 declaring victory.
“We said from the beginning that every vote needs to be counted and that every voter needs to be heard, and now we see clearly why this must always be the case,” she said. “I am proud to have been chosen as the Democratic nominee for Queens District Attorney.”
On July 5, election workers—and attorneys for the two candidates—were dissecting the validity of thousands of affidavit ballots, those ballots that voters cast when workers cannot find them in poll books at voting locations throughout the borough.
In an indication of the stakes at play and the contest’s razor-thin margin, Ms. Cabán tweeted a call for volunteers and for donations.
“Thanks to our tireless supporters who are pouring their hearts and souls into this campaign,” Ms. Cabán tweeted on Friday morning. “With a full recount coming up, there's more work to be done. Help us make sure every valid vote is counted!”
Sea Change Likely
Whether Ms. Katz or Ms. Cabán ultimately prevail in a contest that drew national interest, money and endorsements, the DA’s Office will go through a transformation. Although the winner will face off with at least one Republican in November’s general election, given the huge Democratic registration advantage, either woman would be heavily favored. Both Ms. Katz and Ms. Cabán campaigned on prosecutorial-reform platforms, saying they would eliminate bail for low-level offenses, end cash bail and engage community resources to curb recidivism.
Ms. Cabán, however, went particularly far to the left, saying she would not prosecute prostitution cases and opposed reviving the Queens House of Detention despite also favoring the shutdown of Rikers Island.
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