Katz leads Cabán as Queens DA primary race goes to a recount

There will be a recount in the Democratic primary race for Queens district attorney after a tally of paper ballots left Queens Borough President Melinda Katz with a narrow lead over challenger Tiffany Cabán. 

Katz, who was 1,100 votes behind Cabán on election night, now holds a slim 20-vote advantage over the progressive public defender. That tight margin will automatically trigger a recount in the race to be the Democratic nominee to succeed longtime DA Richard Brown, who died in May after serving for almost 30 years.

The recount will begin on Tuesday, the NYC Board of Elections said Friday.

Katz declared victory Wednesday night while Cabán expressed confidence that her apparent election night success would hold.

"I am proud to have been chosen as the Democratic nominee for Queens district attorney," Katz wrote on Twitter. "I look forward to having tonight’s results affirmed in the coming days."

Cabán said in a statement that her team is "still fighting to make sure every valid ballot is counted. We are confident that if that happens, we will be victorious."

Cabán, a 31-year-old upstart who received endorsements from presidential candidates Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, as well as Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, initially was just over a percentage point ahead of Katz, who was backed by the Queens Democratic Party, on election night, with a 33,800 to 32,700 vote margin. But that tally did not include nearly 6,000 paper ballots and affidavit votes.

A Wednesday count of paper ballots seemingly flipped the result, with Katz holding a 34,898-to-34,878 lead over Cabán, according to the New York Times. However, Cabán’s camp is crying foul over the Board of Elections’ decision to invalidate nearly 3,000 affidavit ballots.

"We are going to fight to make sure every valid vote is counted and every voter has a voice," said Bill Lipton, New York Working Families Party state director. "And when all the votes are counted, we are confident Tiffany Cabán will be the next Queens District Attorney."

BOE officials told the Times that the disputed affidavit ballots, "used when a voter’s name is not listed at the polling place, were invalid or had been cast by ineligible voters."

Lawyers for both candidates presented affidavit ballots to board officials on Friday and argued why certain ones should or should not be counted, BOE spokeswoman Valerie Vazquez-Diaz said.

Cabán ran a campaign that was reminiscent of Ocasio-Cortez’s surprise primary victory over Joe Crowley, in a race that was largely seen as a test of the party establishment’s staying power. Cabán campaigned for ending cash bail, decriminalizing sex work, not prosecuting subway farebeaters, closing Rikers Island and prosecuting corporate crimes. Katz, a former Assembly and City Council member, pitched her experience as an asset, saying she was "uniquely qualified" to be district attorney. She pledged not to prosecute marijuana possession cases, and promised to focus the office on housing fraud and rights for workers and immigrants.

The winner of the primary will face Republican Daniel Kogan in the fall. A November victory would make either Katz or Cabán the first female district attorney in Queens. 

With Reuters