The race for Queens District Attorney could very well become a proxy battle between Queens County Democratic Party Boss Joe Crowley and the young Latina upstart who defeated him in last years’ Congressional Primary, U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, according to political observer and attorney John O’Hara, who is also active in the wrongfully convicted movement.
O’Hara notes the race features three well-monied candidates entrenched in the Queens Democratic Party Machine as the suddenly Queens branch of the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) ready to host a candidates forum on Thursday.
The three entrenched candidates are Queens Borough President Melinda Katz, City Councilman Rory Lancman and former Supreme Court Judge and Assistant District Attorney Greg Lasak.
O’Hara believes the DSA and Ocasio-Cortez will back Tiffany Caban, a young progressive staff attorney for New York County Defenders, who graduated from New York Law School in 2012.
“It makes sense for the DSA and Ocasio-Cortez to back Caban. She can fit the profile of her supporters, young, female and Latino, and Ocasio-Cortez can raise money for her. I never heard of anyone lose an election because they are too young and the Queens DA office is a cesspool of corruption – even worse than it was under former Brooklyn DA Joy Hynes,” said O’Hara, adding people are looking for a change and it won’t come from three white candidates.
O’Hara said all indications are that Crowley will put the party support behind Katz, but noted that Lancman as a district leader just voted for Crowley to remain Queens County Democratic Party Chair about a month ago.
While Crowley’s backing along won’t win or lose an election for a candidate, his real power is in contesting petitions, which is due to start Feb. 26, said O’Hara.
O’Hara said while candidates need 4,000 signatures to get on the ballot, it will take many thousand more to withstand a petition challenge.
O’Hara also noted that the demographics are on the side of a candidate such as Caban as Queens now has a larger percentage of non-white voters and the younger whites that have moved into Astoria and Long Island City tend to be millennial progressives.
O’Hara’s scenario aside, Katz, Lancman and Lasak all have a huge campaign war chest over anybody the DSA endorses and decides to throw their considerable army of support behind.
Katz has raised $1,037,224.04 for her campaign, including $206,311 since January 9, the day longtime DA Richard Brown announced he would not be running for re-election.
“I am very proud of our fundraising efforts and it is clear our pledge to bring important and much-needed criminal justice reform to Queens is resonating with the community. The people of Queens are eager to see an end to cash bail, a commitment to discovery reform, an end to marijuana prosecutions, and an emphasis on rehabilitation and prevention along with prosecution. I am ready to be the partner in justice Queens needs to make our borough safe and our criminal justice system fair for all of us,” said Katz.
Lancman has raised over $1.1 million, and has nearly $1 million in cash-on-hand for the race.
“Support and momentum are growing all across Queens, as people see that our campaign represents real reform of the criminal justice reform — ending the New Jim Crow, where thousands of people of color a year are given criminal records for the rest of their lives for low-level offenses that shouldn’t be in the criminal justice system at all; prosecuting crimes against working people, women, immigrants, homeowners, and tenants; and holding law enforcement, including the police and our own office, to the highest standards of accountability,” said Lancman.
Lasak reported raising more than $800,000.
“I’m proud of the support that we’ve garnered across Queens County around my candidacy for District Attorney,” Lasak said, adding that, unlike the politicians in the race, he was unable to raise any campaign money until he retired from the bench in September.
Jose Nieves, a prosecutor in the state Attorney General’s Office, also registered a DA campaign committee to run with the state Board of Elections.
The primary is slated for June 25.