‘A comeback story’: Melinda Katz celebrates becoming the Democratic nominee for Queens DA

Photo: Mark Hallum/QNS

Borough President Melinda Katz celebrated gaining the Democratic nomination for the Queens District Attorney on Monday after the Board of Elections certified recount results that placed her 60 votes ahead of Tiffany Cabán.

Katz threw an “appreciation party” for her supporters at a Banter, a Forest Hills watering hole where her and Congressman Gregory Meeks celebrated gaining a follow-through on their primary night promise to “count every valid vote.”

“Let’s run back the tape. I remember being here not long ago saying it wasn’t over yet until every vote is counted,” said Meeks, the new chairman of Queens Democratic Party. “When you look at those results, you see a candidate that had the power to bring Queens together. We talked about our diversity, you look at the whole breadth of Queens County, you will see that Melinda Katz has won thoroughly … to make sure have the kind of DA the represents the great diversity of Queens County.”

Katz’s words at the victory party directed aggression toward the Cabán campaign which often criticized her ties to the real estate industry as well as accusations that she was the “establishment” candidate.

“It was really hard to stand up the last few weeks. We were having difficult times in the papers. We weren’t sure if we won or lost,” Katz said. “We are entering very personal times. We are entering very complicated times, and during the campaign at times people made it seem so easy – like we’re going to change this and we’re going to change that. You know what we need to do, we need to make sure that there is justice for victims and justice for defendants.”

Katz also railed against claims from Cabán supporters that the process could not be trusted on account of influence from the Queens County Democratic Party due to their role appointing BOE board members. There was also much scorn for the use of Frank Bolz and Michael Reich as attorneys for Katz in consideration to their history of profiting off surrogate courts.

“I am incredibly proud of this campaign. We stayed above the board. We held our heads high,” Katz continued. “We talked the truth and the truth people here, they hear it. They want to hear and they knew they were getting it from this campaign.”

The Monday party at Banter was the antithesis of the attitudes at the end of the June 25 primary.

Election night numbers had Cabán leading Katz by over 1,100 votes out of a seven-candidate field while basking in what her supporters perceived as another upset against the Queens Democratic Party “machine” at Laboom in Jackson Heights. But the afterglow quickly diminished as a count of over 3,550 absentee and affidavit ballots placed Katz 16 votes ahead.

What started as a county race quickly turned into a national story that echoed the victory of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez over former Congressman Joe Crowley a year prior.

“People all over the United States were watching this race to see what was going to happen, and you know what happened? The most qualified, effective, reform-minded, intelligent, capable person won this race,” Congressman Tom Suozzi said on Monday. “Everybody loves a comeback story.”

But the Cabán camp held their firm to their assertion that cronyism within the Queens Democratic Party and the Board of Elections influenced the DA recount through objections to ballots and affidavits deemed invalid.

As such, attorneys for Cabán will still be pursuing a suit that will challenge the determinations of the BOE regarding what they claim to be hundreds of ballots tossed aside by what Jerry Goldfeder called in a Thursday press conference “hyper-technicalities.”

“During the recount, the Katz campaign objected to a significant number of valid Cabán ballots, and these votes were not counted by the Board of Elections,” Goldfeder said in a Monday press release. “We will ask the court to count these valid Cabán votes, and to count the many ballots cast by eligible voters that were invalidated by the BOE because of minor form errors. Legal precedent established several years ago by The Appellate Division, Second Department indicates that these minor, clerical errors are insufficient grounds to invalidate otherwise eligible votes.”

Michael Ryan, the executive director of the BOE, said on Monday they will be in court on July 31 with the Cabán campaign only to clarify matters, not to making any arguments for their process.

“Essentially this litigation is really in some respects a one-sided affair, in that the party that has a claim will make it. And the court will make a determination based on the law. We will simply be there represented by the law department to say what we did, not to advocate a position,” Ryan said. “So it’s not really an adversarial circumstance the way normal litigation will be.”

With over 91,000 votes cast on June 25, votes for Katz totaled 34,920 while Cabán took 34,860.

If Katz does take office, after the court hearing and pending a victory in the general, Deputy Borough President Sharon Lee would lead the office until a special election is called by Mayor Bill de Blasio.

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