Queer Latina Tiffany Cabán Shocks New York City, Makes History in Queens District Attorney Primary Victory

It’s been the rainiest summer anyone in New York City can remember, and that includes people like me who’ve been here six years, and people like all my neighbors in Queens who’ve lived here their whole lives — but the week-long torrential downpours never slowed down Tiffany Cabán’s grassroots campaign for district attorney. Yesterday afternoon, three hours before the polls closed, 90 degrees and barely-breathable humidity after a monster thunderstorm, another smiling Cabán for Queens volunteer showed up at my door. I was happy to tell him I’d already voted for her.

Last night, with a 1.3% (1,090 vote) lead, Cabán declared victory in the Democratic Queens DA primary, moving her closer to becoming the first openly LGBTQ district attorney in New York City history. (The race won’t officially be called for a few days, to make sure mail-in votes are counted.)

For such a local race, this one has drawn enormous national attention. Cabán is a queer Latina public defender who ran against the Democratic machine — and New York Governor/2020presidential candidate Andrew Cuomo’s establishment candidate, Melinda Katz — with an assist from the momentum built by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez here in 2018, and endorsements from Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders.

The New York Times declared that this race would “determine how far one of the most diverse places in the country is willing to go in endorsing criminal justice reform.” Cabán’s platform was built around the core ideas of reducing recidivism, decriminalizing poverty, ending mass incarceration, and protecting immigrant communities. She has talked passionately about decriminalizing sex work, refusing to prosecute MTA turnstile jumpers, and even arresting ICE agents in court. In just a few short months, she inspired a vision that Queens could become a hub of progressive change and restorative justice.

After declaring victory, she tweeted, “Transforming this system will not be easy, and it will not happen overnight. But I am ready. We are ready. We have built the most powerful, the most diverse, the most beautiful coalition that a borough-wide race has ever seen. From formerly incarcerated folks to sex workers to undocumented immigrants to community-based organizations & activists to local & national elected officials… This campaign started with just four women, sitting around a kitchen table, saying: we have to change the system. So I did what many thought was unthinkable for a 31-year-old Queer Latina public defender whose parents grew up in the Woodside Houses. I decided to run.”

Queens, by the way, has more residents than 17 states. Cabán’s next hurdle is a general election campaign against Republican Daniel Kogan. For now, though, she’s celebrating.

Heather Hogan is an Autostraddle managing editor who lives in New York City with her partner, Stacy, and their cackle of rescued pets. She's a member of the Television Critics Association, the Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and a Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer critic. You can also find her on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Heather has written 855 articles for us.

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