Muggy weather may have kept early morning voters at bay, but did not stop Borough President Melinda Katz, former Judge Greg Lasak, public defender Tiffany Cabán, and former prosecutors Betty Lugo, José Nieves and Mina Malik from reaching out to potential voters on primary day for the Queens District Attorney role.
This is the first competitive race for the Queens District Attorney’s Office in 42 years. The late District Attorney Richard Brown was appointed to the agency in June 1991.
Each candidate knows the stakes are high but are in the race to win it.
Malik, Lasak and Katz concentrated their last-ditch campaign efforts throughout southeast Queens on June 25th.
“I definitely think that what voters have seen during the entirety of this campaign is that experience and qualifications matter,” said Malik at P.S. 34 in Queens Village. “This is an extremely important election. There’s been a lot of smokescreen and mirrors put up, political rhetoric that has been bandied about, but at the end of the day the Queens voters will be savvy enough and intelligent enough to see through all of that for what really matters.”
If Malik were to be elected in the primary and the general election, she would be the first Queens district attorney of Southeast Asian and Hispanic descent.
To win the race, Lasak is banking on his tenure as a former Queens assistant district attorney and Supreme Court judge and has fashioned himself as a more progressive version of Brown.
“I’ve got more experience then all my opponents combined,” said Lasak at the Alpha Phi Alpha Senior Center in Cambria Heights. “The main job of the district attorney is to keep people safe. We also need reform and part of reform is doing what I’ve been doing in the DA’s office. ”
During his 25 years as an assistant district attorney, he helped with implementing the first diversion programs, Second Chance programs and exonerated 20 men who were wrongfully accused of a crime.
“In an occasion where someone was innocent I reinvestigated [those cases] when no one was doing that,” said Lasak. “Once you get saddled with a criminal record you are prevented from going to a good school, getting a good job and getting into a good union.”
Katz believes her community ties will be the key to her victory.
“We’ve been working neighborhood by neighborhood all over the county to speak to every voter,” said Katz at the Jamaica Long Island Railroad. “This is an important race. It is the one that is going to determine the future of our families right here in our borough.”
As the endorsee of the Queens County Democratic Organization, Katz had a large team behind her reaching out to voters along Archer Avenue and Sutphin Boulevard.
“We have thousands of civic leaders that are out here campaigning today and volunteering for me because of the history that we have,” said Katz. “This is a race about Queens families.”
Katz is one of four women in the race who could make history tonight and at the general election.
Nieves, Lugo and Cabán, three out of the four Hispanic candidates seeking to make history as the first Latino or Latina district attorney, spent most of their time battling it out for Latin voters in central Queens.
“Latinos Unidos!” said Nieves outside of P.S. 16 in Corona.
Nieves hopes that his background will help him triumph in the race.
“The personal connection of serving in the military in Afghanistan, my experience is connecting with voters and I come from the community,” said Nieves. “I’m not a career politician. I’m somebody from the community that speaks their language.”
If elected, Nieves doesn’t intend to cooperate with the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and end the pre-indictment plea policy.
“We have to go out and vote today,” said Nieves. “We have to make sure that we are picking the right person with the right experience who can do the job on day one, that can lead the office and command the respect of the staff, the courts and the defense bar.”
Lugo, the most conservative of the four women in the race, believes her middle-of-the-road approach to campaigning is what will guarantee her the district attorney role.
“Cabán is only Latina is only in name only,” said Lugo under the 7-train in Jackson Heights. “Latinos that come here are fleeing socialism and the last thing they want is the left of left.”
Lugo has been a lawyer for 35 years and owned her own law firm for 27 years and believes she is far more qualified to be district attorney than far-left candidate Cabán.
“I started as the first Hispanic female at the Nassau County District Attorney’s Office, I’ve worked at the Manhattan’s DA’s Office and the Albany’s DA’s Office,” said Lugo. “All the other candidates are either apart of the political machine or they have been a lawyer for five years.”
With the support of the Democratic Socialists of America, Cabán also had hundreds of canvassers reaching out to voters.
“We got folks in the Rockaways all the way to Long Island City,” said Cabán. “We are not taking any vote for granted and we are just reminding people about the election, how important it is and hoping they come out to the polls.”
Cabán hopes that her grassroots campaign and reform policies will help her secure the district attorney seat.
“What we’ve done was build a lot of excitement surrounding our campaign,” said Cabán at P.S. 19 in Corona. “Our main focus is to change the culture [of the office] and the metrics of success. We need to move away from a culture of convictions of at all cost that hasn’t made us safe and say how do we make sure harm doesn’t happen again and how do we keep communities safe. Our goal should be reducing recidivism.”
Polls close at 9 p.m.