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Insurgent Queens DA Candidate Winning Rapid Endorsements

Tiffany Cabán
Tiffany Cabán (Photo: cabanforqueens.com)

“If Tiffany Cabán wins, things are going to change. Instead of criminalizing poverty, we’re going to dedicate resources towards prosecuting abusive landlords.”

Tiffany Cabán, a 31-year old public defender running for Queens District Attorney, won the endorsements of Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Sen. Bernie Sanders on Wednesday, as the progressive presidential rivals compete for clout in endorsing the insurgent Cabán’s high profile down-ballot campaign.

Cabán is running on a progressive platform of ending cash bail, decriminalizing drug crimes and sex work, revisiting old crimes and closing Rikers Island, a prison infamous for inhumane conditions.

Notably, Paul Manafort was recently spared from pre-trial detention in Rikers by a “highly unusual” intervention by top Justice Department officials. The episode illustrates the unequal treatment different socioeconomic classes receive under the current justice system. Supporters believe Cabán would bring balance to the justice system’s treatment of disadvantaged populations, as she seeks to “broadly, end prosecutions of offenses related to poverty,” according to the Intercept’s Ryan Grim.

“I represent a clean break from the status quo, not incremental but bold, transformative change,” said Cabán in an interview with the Nation.

New York law enforcement responded to the crack epidemic of the 90’s with an aggressive, tough-on-crime approach that led to mass incarceration with severe racial disparities. As public opinion has shifted towards reshaping the criminal justice system and ending mass incarceration, critics argue Queens’ political establishment has failed to evolve, in contrast to boroughs like Brooklyn that have begun significant reforms.

With over 2 million residents, Queens is one of America’s most populated counties, and Cabán’s sweeping criminal justice reform agenda could have ripple effects throughout the country.

Elizabeth Warren was the first of the presidential candidates to publicly issue her support for Cabán on Wednesday, tweeting:

“I’m proud to endorse Tiffany Cabán for Queens DA in New York. @CabanForQueens will fight for working families and work to end mass incarceration. Make sure you get out and vote for Tiffany next Tuesday, June 25th. In the meantime, head to http://cabanforqueens.com  to volunteer!”

Sanders had already endorsed the insurgent candidate, but his campaign was waiting to publicize his support with a prominent local television channel in Queens. Sanders’ campaign manager Faiz Shakir then tweeted an explanation for coming in second-place after Sen. Warren:

“Just for everyone’s general awareness:

Bernie spoke with Tiffany Cabán and was impressed. We had already communicated our endorsement, but per their request, we waited to roll it out until it best suited the campaign strategy.

With all that said, vote for @CabanForQueens!”

The progressive scuffle over who endorsed the previously obscure Cabán first illustrates the rapidly shifting dynamics of political competition in the Democratic party.

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, also a millennial progressive of Puerto Rican descent, endorsed Cabán last month. The Democratic primary for Queens District Attorney will be held June 25, a day before the one-year anniversary of Ocasio-Cortez’ primary victory last year.

Ocasio-Cortez’ former primary rival, establishment stalwart Joe Crowley, is endorsing Cabán’s leading competitor, Queens borough president Melinda Katz. Katz holds strong ties to real estate interests and critics argue she represents the establishment forces Cabán hopes to usurp.

“If Tiffany Cabán wins, things are going to change. Instead of criminalizing poverty, we’re going to dedicate resources towards prosecuting abusive landlords. Instead of targeting people who use marijuana, we can go after the drug companies that took advantage of working-class folks for profit. We can end broken windows policing and rebuild the relationship between our communities, and the justice system that’s supposed to work for us. We can end cash bail, so that the rich and poor are held equal in the eyes of the law. We deserve a district attorney that understands that to make our community safer we help people prosper,” said Ocasio-Cortez in a statement.

The New York Times, which mostly ignored Alexandria Ocasio Cortez’ underdog primary bid, issued an endorsement of Cabán, a clear signal of the changing political winds.

“Ms. Cabán identifies as a queer Latina. She is of Puerto Rican descent and is the first in her family to graduate from college. She would bring a perspective suited to one of the world’s most diverse communities, one where elected officials have rarely reflected that reality,” wrote the Times’ editorial board.

Peter Castagno

Peter Castagno is a co-owner Citizen Truth.

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