Another twist in Queens DA contest

A manual recount of the nail-bitter election starts this week.

Better hold off on the “Oy veys” regarding Tiffany Cabán’s apparent winning the Democratic nomination for Queens district attorney.

Turns out Queens Borough President Melinda Katz, the Queens Democratic Party candidate, is making a fight of it. After election night, Cabán led Katz by about 1,000 votes, but by Monday Katz was 16 votes ahead. A manual recount begins this week that could take weeks, if not longer.

If Cabán wins the Democratic nomination, sources say that Queens party leaders are considering the longshot possibility of recruiting another candidate for November’s general election: getting the respected law-and-order traditionalist Bronx Criminal Court Judge George Grasso on the Republican line. The sources asked for anonymity to speak frankly about the Democrats’ strategy regarding Grasso, who lives in Queens.

One can understand the party’s fears over Cabán. A former public defender who has never prosecuted a case, Cabán sounds as if she would turn the DA’s office into a social service agency. She says she’s been influenced by Philadelphia DA Larry Krasner, a former civil rights lawyer who has revolutionized that office by attempting to eliminate mass incarceration and not prosecute certain crimes.

As for Katz, she is a moderate political insider who has run for a host of local offices. Like Cabán, she, too, has never prosecuted a case. Katz’s election robocalls to voters did not emphasize her law enforcement credentials (she has none).

Should Katz win the nomination and become DA and Queens pols again dominate the office, would it revert to its past unsavory character?

In 1973, then-Queens DA Thomas Mackell resigned after he was indicted on charges of hindering prosecution in a $4.4 million get-rich-quick scheme in which nine members of his staff had invested. A jury found him guilty in 1974, but the conviction was reversed and dismissed on appeal the following year. In 1991, then-Queens DA John Santucci resigned in the middle of his term after now-defunct New York Newsday disclosed he attended a 14-hour lunch with Sal Reale, an associate of the Gambino crime family, at the Altadonna restaurant in South Ozone Park.

At his farewell news conference, Santucci blamed New York Newsday for his resignation. He said that your humble servant, who wrote the story about the lunch with reporter Ellis Henican, was “anti-Italian.”

Len Levitt