The Democratic primary race for Queens district attorney took another breathtaking turn on Wednesday night as Melinda Katz, the Queens borough president, squeezed out a 20-vote lead over Tiffany Cabán, the insurgent progressive challenger, following a count of over 6,000 paper ballots.
Prior to yesterday's tally, Cabán had been holding on to a 1,100 vote advantage, in what was considered a stunning achievement for the 31-year-old public defender, who had entered the race late but won key endorsements from Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren.
The tight race has drawn national attention, and is seen as a litmus test for the direction of the Democratic party in Queens, the city's most diverse borough. Katz, 53, was considered part of the Democratic party's old establishment, a former city council member who was backed by unions and real estate.
The final outcome of the primary is still uncertain. The narrow margin will force a manual recount, and Cabán's camp immediately challenged Board of Election officials for refusing to count more than 2,000 affidavit ballots before counting paper ballots.
“Our campaign, and all of Queens, is up against a party machine that has ruled local politics and suppressed democracy for decades," Cabán said on Thursday. "We are still fighting to make sure every valid ballot is counted. We are confident that if that happens, we will be victorious."
Cabán attorney Jerry Goldfeder told the NY Times that he will challenge the BOE decision to invalidate all but 487 of the 2,816 affidavit ballots. According to the Times, "election officials said they had determined that the ballots, used when a voter’s name is not listed at the polling place, were invalid or had been cast by ineligible voters."
"Queens voters are inspired by Tiffany Cabán's campaign and her vision for real criminal justice reform, said Cabán spokesperson Monica Klein. “If every valid paper ballot vote is counted, we are confident we will prevail."
On Twitter, Cabán supporters were already rallying behind the recount, and in some cases, crying foul.
we’re asking y’all to contact us if you voted by affidavit, Bc there’s a good chance you’re one of the 2500 ballots the BOE decided to toss out. They might say your signature was different, that you moved, etc. We just think your votes should count! So Vote@cabanforqueens.com
— Queens DSA Electoral Working Group 🌹🗳️ (@QueensElectoral) July 4, 2019
EMERGENCY: The Democratic machine in Queens has waited until the hours before the 4th of July holiday to try to steal the election for District Attorney from @CabanForQueens.
They threw out 2,300 votes from Election Day, most belonging to Cabán and now say Katz is ahead. LIES
— Shaun King (@shaunking) July 4, 2019
Katz, however, has already declared victory, 34,898 votes to Cabán's 34,878. Late Wednesday, Katz issued a tweet, saying: "Every vote was counted and every voice was heard. I’m honored to be the Democratic nominee for Queens District Attorney."
Every vote was counted and every voice was heard. I’m honored to be the Democratic nominee for Queens District Attorney. pic.twitter.com/ez7eLAoKhb
— Melinda Katz (@MelindaKatz) July 4, 2019
The recount is expected to begin on Friday, and there were already indications that both candidates are gearing up for a court battle.
Source close to @CabanForQueens says they believe there are thousands of affidavits that should be counted, and they plan on arguing that in court.
— Zack Fink (@ZackFinkNews) July 4, 2019
NYC election lawyers cost $1,000+ per hour.
This recount will likely cost @CabanForQueens tens of thousands in order to put up a fair fight in court.
Katz has the County machine lawyers; Cabán has us.
Please give what you can: https://t.co/JHs5zrVozRhttps://t.co/N5f5ZKO3wP
— Bright D Limm 임대중 (@bdlimm) July 4, 2019
UPDATE: This story has been updated to include a statement from Cabán.