With Brown out, race for Queens DA heats up while campaigns face earlier primary date

da three new candiadates
Photos via Twitter/@CabanForQueens, Nieves’ Campaign and NYC.gov.

The field of candidates running for the office of Queens District Attorney has doubled since DA Richard Brown announced he would not seek re-election for an eighth term on Jan. 9.

That same day, the Queens chapter of Democratic Socialists of America released campaign questionnaires from the city’s Consumer Affairs Commissioner Lorelei Salas, state Attorney General’s office special prosecutor Jose Nieves and public defender Tiffany Caban.

The three new candidates face an uphill battle in fundraising, however, as the three established candidates are way ahead according to reports released by their campaigns over the weekend. Plus the Democratic primary, originally planned for September, will likely be moved up to June as part of an election reform movement in Albany, meaning this race will become a sprint rather than a marathon.

Upon Brown’s announcement, Queens Borough President Melinda Katz thanked him for his years of service to Queens and New York State after holding the office of District Attorney since 1991.

“We are entering a new era of criminal justice in Queens, and there is a national movement to bring systematic changes to our criminal justice system, from instituting bail reform to ending marijuana prosecutions to extending warrant forgiveness,” Katz said. “I look forward to Queens being an active voice and leader in that change. I will be a DA who is a partner in justice and emphasize crime prevention and rehabilitation in addition to prosecution.”

City Councilman Rory Lancman, who chairs the Committee on the Justice System, overseeing the Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice, the district attorneys in all five boroughs, the City’s special narcotics prosecutor, the public defender organizations, the civil legal services providers by the city and the courts, took to Twitter following Brown’s announcement.

“Judge Brown has had a long and distinguished career serving the people of Queens and New York State, and I wish him well,” Lancman wrote. “Now it’s our responsibility to forge a new criminal justice system in Queens, one that is more fair and less punitive, and focuses on protecting working people, women and immigrants.”

The third established candidate in the race, retired Supreme Court Justice Gregory Lasak, thanked Brown on social media for his years of service. Lasak is the sole candidate with experience inside the Queens District Attorney’s Office having worked their for 25 years serving as chief of the homicide division and major crimes unit.

As far as fundraising, Katz’s campaign announced Monday it had raised over $1 million, with $206,311 since Brown’s announcement on Jan. 9.

“I am very proud of our fundraising efforts and it is clear our pledge to bring important and much-needed criminal justice reform to Queens is resonating with the community,” Katz said. “I am ready to be the partner in justice Queens needs to make our borough safe and our criminal justice system fair for all of us.”

The Lancman campaign announced Sunday it had raised over $1.1 million, and has nearly $1 million in cash-on-hand.

“Support and momentum are growing all across Queens, as people see that our campaign represents real reform of the criminal justice system — ending the New Jim Crow, where thousands of people of color a year are given criminal records for the rest of their lives for low-level offenses that shouldn’t be in the criminal justice system at all; prosecuting crimes against working people, women, immigrants, homeowners and tenants; and holding law enforcement, including the police and our own office, to the highest standards of accountability,” Lancman said.

Lasak’s campaign announced Monday it had raised $800,000 with almost $700,000 cash-on-hand but he was unable to begin fundraising until after he retired from the bench on September 15.

“I’m proud of the support that I’ve garnered across Queens County around my candidacy for District Attorney,” Lasak said. “I’m the only candidate in this race with the experience to do the job from day one — to make reforms to the criminal justice system and to keep our communities safe — and that’s resonating because supporters and voters across Queens know that this isn’t s job for a politician.”

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