As the 20+ Democratic presidential candidates sort themselves out, every local election becomes a battle in the war between the party “progressives” and the “establishment” Will a regular, Joe Biden, for example, become the Trump opponent or will a left winger, maybe Bernie Sanders, win the nomination?
Earlier this week, in the important Queens county District Attorney primary, public defender and leftist insurgent Tiffany Caban has declared victory over regular Democrat and incumbent Borough President Melinda Katz.
With more than 95% of the votes counted, Caban had 39.6% (33,814), Katz had 38.3% (32,724). Third place went to Gregory Lasak, who had 14.5% (12,377). Rory Lancmen, Betty Lugo, Jose Nieves, and Mina Malik all received less than 5% of the total.
Second place finisher Katz has refused to concede. She is hoping that the preliminary vote totals might be shifted by the 3,000+ uncounted absentee and affidavit ballots. The Board of Elections has indicated that a final total will probably be available by the middle of next week.
New York state election law requires an automatic recount if the margin of victory is 0.5% or less. Absentee/affidavit ballot totals generally follow the pattern of the counted vote, making it unlikely that Katz would be able to prevail. There is a slim chance that the uncounted votes might reduce Caban’s 1.5 percentage point lead to the point where a recount would be in order.
Caban ran on a platform that included the elimination of cash bail and the closing of Riker’s Island. She would decline to prosecute transit fare beaters, sex workers, and low level drug sellers.
In a sign of Democratic party generational and ideological conflict, Katz was supported by Governor Cuomo, former Queens County leader/Congressperson Joe Cowley, and by the so-called Queens “machine.” The 31 year-old Ms. Caban was supported by Congressperson Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (AOC) and by left-leaning presidential candidates Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren. In last year’s election, Ms. Ocasio-Cortez defeated Crowley, who was at that time a seemingly safe, 9 term member of the House Democratic party leadership. The establishment Democrats had hoped that the AOC upset against Crowley was a fluke. The D.A. office loss suggests that the machine may be weakened to the point where it may be facing a leadership challenge.
As is often the case in New York politics the Black vote may have been determinative of the winner. Early results suggest that Katz did not get the southern Queens (in other words Black voter) support she needed to win the race.