The ‘establishment’ strikes back: Queens Democratic boss slams Sanders and Warren for backing Cabán in DA race

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Photos by Mark Hallum

Tiffany Cabán, one of seven Democrats seeking to become Queens’ next district attorney, had a big Wednesday after garnering endorsements from The New York Times and two presidential candidates: Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren.

But one prominent Queens Democrat wasn’t celebrating.

With the June 25 primary taking the competition into overdrive, Congressman Gregory Meeks, who succeeded Joe Crowley as Queens Democratic Party boss, accused Sanders and Warren of meddling in the race by of making endorsements without speaking with any local elected officials in the county.

“African Americans have the largest stake in this DA race, from reforming the criminal justice system, to ending racial disparities and stopping mass incarceration. Yet Warren and Sanders saw fit to endorse without even considering what African Americans thought,” Meeks said in an email that included a list of a number of black leaders who have backed Melinda Katz for district attorney.

“African American voters are tired of the patronizing and tired of the arrogance. If they want to be the president for all Americans, I suggest they speak with us before they decide to speak for us,” he added.

Cabán declined to comment regarding Meeks’ statement.

In his endorsement, Sanders did not touch on how the criminal justice system disproportionately affects the black community but did claim that their mission of taking on establishment Democrats and ending mass incarceration is in line with one another.

“No one person, not even the president of the United States, can create the kind of change we need alone. Real political change must occur at every level of government,” Sanders said in a release. “Like our campaign, Tiffany is taking on virtually the entire political establishment. And like our campaign, Tiffany has put together the kind of grassroots effort it takes to win … They can have a meaningful impact on issues like ending cash bail and mass incarceration. They can shift the focus from a failed war on drugs to issues like white collar crime in the financial sector, by pharmaceutical companies, and others.”

Sanders’ email included a link to where nationwide supporters can donate to Cabán’s campaign and said with the DA race gaining national attention, Democratic Socialists have a chance to send a clear message about their “political revolution.”

Meeks’ statement against these two endorsements on the basis of not conferring with black leaders was met with confusion and criticism from activist groups who support Cabán for her record as a public defender.

The June 25 primary for District Attorney follows the death of DA Richard Brown who served for 28 years and will not only feature Cabán and Katz, but also Councilman Rory Lancman, Mina Malik, Gregory Lasak, Betty Lugo and Jose Nieves.