Queens residents will head to the polls Tuesday, June 25, to take the first step in electing a new district attorney for the first time in nearly three decades.
The Democratic primary has turned into a wild free-for-all among seven candidates looking to succeed the late Richard A. Brown, who served as Queens district attorney from 1991 until his death in May of this year from complications of Parkinson’s disease, just months after he announced he would not seek re-election last year.
The seven candidates range from veterans of the political scene to first-time candidates, from left-wing reformers to moderate liberals. Each candidate has their vision for reforming, in varying degrees, the Queens district attorney’s office and its pursuit of justice for the borough’s residents.
In an off-election year, this primary has become the most exciting and watched political race in the city this year, but only Queens voters will make the final choice when the polls open this Tuesday. Voting sites will open from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. The primary is open to registered Democratic voters.
The winner of Tuesday’s primary will be the prohibitive favorite to win the DA’s race in the November general election. Republicans do not have a district attorney primary this Tuesday because they already have their presumptive nominee: Ozone Park attorney Daniel Kogan.
Queens Borough President Melinda Katz of Forest Hills has been the front-running establishment candidate in the field thanks to her 26 years of public service at Borough Hall, the City Council and the state Assembly. Katz is the top fundraiser and drew support from Governor Andrew Cuomo and the city’s four largest unions, the Queens County Democratic Party, Planned Parenthood and the United Federation of Teachers, while she has no prosecutorial experience in the courtroom.
Public defender Tiffany Cabán of Astoria has made a late charge after picking up the endorsement of Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who stunned the Queens political class a year ago when she defeated party boss Joe Crowley in the Democratic primary denying him a chance to run for an 11th term in the House of Representatives. Cabán was also endorsed recently by reform-minded progressive District Attorney Larry Krasner of Philadelphia, the Working Families Party and both the city and national chapters of the Democratic Socialists of America.
Following her interview with the Queens County Bar Association, Cabán was rated not approved.
Former state Supreme Court Justice Greg Lasak was the only candidate to rate a “well qualified” after his interview with the Queens County Bar. Lasak has based his entire campaign based on his 25 years as a prosecutor in the Queens DA’s office where as Executive Assistant District Attorney he oversaw more than 2,500 homicide investigations. He retired from the bench last year in order to run for district attorney.
Born and raised in Woodside, Lasak moved to Richmond Hill to raise his family. He swept the endorsement of law enforcement unions and is favored by the judiciary, according to sources.
City Councilman Rory Lancman chairs the Committee on the Justice System, overseeing the district attorneys in all five boroughs, the Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice, the City’s special narcotics prosecutor, the public defender organizations, the civil legal services providers funded by the City, and the courts. Raised in Flushing, Lancman lives in Fresh Meadows. He has not worked as a prosecutor or criminal defense attorney.
Mina Malik is a former ADA in the Queens District Attorney’s office who went on to serve as executive director of the city’s Civilian Complaint Review Board, a special counsel to the Brooklyn DA and recently as a Harvard Law School lecturer. The Forest Hills resident has put our several policy papers in recent weeks showing her organization skills should she win.
Jose Nieves of Queens Village is an Army combat veteran in Afghanistan and a former special prosecutor in the state Attorney General’s office appears to be a longshot in the field as does Maspeth resident Betty Lugo, a former Nassau County assistant district attorney who went into private practice.
To find your polling site location visit nyc.pollsitelocator.com.