Born to Puerto Rican parents in Richmond Hill, Queens, 31-year-old district attorney candidate Tiffany Cabán is just days away from an election that could change the course of her life – and the course of the criminal justice system in one of the largest counties in the United States.
If she wins the Democratic primary on June 25th, Cabán, a public defender, could become one of the most progressive district attorneys this country has seen. She would also become the first Latina, the first woman, the first openly queer and the youngest person to ever hold that office in Queens history.
If this feat once seemed like an unlikely and distant dream, it certainly seems less so nearly a year after Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez shocked the Democratic establishment by defeating incumbent Joe Crowley in the primary for New York’s 14th congressional district. (AOC has endorsed Cabán, after which a string of high profile endorsements ensued, including cosigns from the NYT Editorial board, Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders.)
Cabán’s appeal is straightforward and sincere. From her position as a public defender, she explains, she has seen first-hand how our justice system disproportionately punishes the poor and the marginalized. And she argues that this insight – from the perspective of those most adversely impacted by our criminal justice system – makes her best equipped to usher in change.
“I have spent my career working for people who did not have resources to defend themselves against the brutal system of mass incarceration,” she says on her site. “I am running to transform the Queens District Attorney’s office after years of witnessing its abuses on the front lines.”
Cabán’s platform of change and reform includes ending cash bail, decriminalizing sex work, ending all collaboration with ICE, closing the jail on Rikers Island, and ending prosecutions for jumping the turnstile and low-level drug offenses. She is also the only candidate in the race who is not accepting donations from corporate or real estate interests.
But while there’s is much grassroots excitement around her campaign, it’s shaping up to be a tight race. Cabán is facing off against six other candidates, including Melida Katz, the borough’s president. In a race with typically low turn out, every vote will count.
In the lead up to the June 25 primary, we spent a day with Cabán at her Jackson Heights campaign office to hear more about why she is fighting to transform Queens’ criminal justice system. Learn more below: