Election 2019: Katz and Murray face off in race for Queens district attorney

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QNS file photos

They both have offices on Queens Boulevard in Kew Gardens, but when it comes to the race for district attorney, the two candidates are miles apart.

Queens Borough President Melinda Katz, the Democratic nominee, based her campaign on experience after nearly 20 years in public service at the city and state level.

Republican nominee Joe Murray says that’s precisely why Katz should not be district attorney: because she is “a career politician with no criminal court experience.” The former NYPD cop turned criminal defense attorney was a supporter of Judge Greg Lasak during the Democratic primary. Lasak served 25 years as a top prosecutor in the Queens district attorney’s office before leaving to serve 12 years on the Queens Supreme Court bench.

When Lasak finished third, Murray, a registered Democrat, approached the Queens GOP about taking its party line in the general election after attorney Daniel Kogan left the ticket following his nomination to the state Supreme Court in August.

Katz and Murray were at odds on the City Council’s approval of the de Blasio administration’s plan to close Rikers Island and open four borough-based jail including one in Kew Gardens at the location of the old Queens Detention Complex.

Katz applauded the proposed closing of the jails on Rikers, but not its replacement.

“I don’t support the plan to build a 1,500-person jail in Queens, regardless of where the city wants to build it,” Katz said. “Rather, we need a small, community-based facility that will allow people to be closer to their communities and receive the services they need, but is not so large that we end up putting more people behind bars.”

Murray had nothing but contempt for the progressive take on the issue, insisting there was no need to fast track the penal facility and instead build new facilities on Rikers.

“In essence, they would like to normalize incarceration as if it’s another after-school program. I believe jail should be a place you don’t want to go back to and not something that should be normalized in our community,” Murray said. “No one has ever escaped from Rikers Island. It was built to detain people who have committed crimes against NYC citizens. It was never supposed to be pleasant and a comfortable environment for criminals.”

The two candidates squared off in their only televised debate last week on NY1 and their differing philosophies were evident.

“My idea of criminal justice, my idea of keeping Queens County safe, is that we institute programs that people don’t want to pick up guns, and then we work with the correctional facilities,” Katz said. “And we work with probation and we work with all the people that are already in the system, to make sure that those who should be punished should be punished.”

Murray was dismissive.

“I’m running because I’m against this progressive criminal justice reform that’s been rammed down our throats by Mayor de Blasio,” Murray said. “I am a Democrat running on the Republican line. The Democratic Party hates me because I’m challenging you and, God forbid, you go against the party. And the Republican Party tolerates me. They tolerate me because they know I’m a Democrat and I’m the most qualified person so they tolerate me. I owe nothing to no one.”

Katz and Murray differed on bail reform, decriminalizing prostitution and their approach to limiting gun violence. They did agree they were the best candidate to replace Acting Queens District Attorney John Ryan who took over the office in March when Richard Brown, 86, took a leave of absence in March before dying from Parkinson’s disease in May.