Three DA Candidates Raise Millions Months Ahead of Primary

A vote here sign outside a polling place in Ridgewood.  Eagle  file photo by David Brand.

A vote here sign outside a polling place in Ridgewood. Eagle file photo by David Brand.

By David Brand

The three leading Democratic candidates for Queens District Attorney have already raised about $3 million to boost their chances — and there’s still at least five months to go before the primaries.

Ahead of the first fundraising disclosure deadline of the 2019 election cycle, Councilmember Rory Lancman reported raising $1.1 million, Borough President Melinda Katz reported raising more than $1 million and former Queens Supreme Court Justice Gregory Lasak reported raising more than $800,000.

“I’m proud of the support that we’ve garnered across Queens County around my candidacy for District Attorney,” Lasak said, adding that, unlike the politicians in the race, he was unable to raise any campaign money until he retired from the bench in September.

In most years, state election primaries take place in September, but the state legislature is considering a measure to consolidate state and city primaries on the same election day in June. Election watchers say the earlier date would give established and well-known candidates a leg up in the race.

“A June primary date, which is a good government reform, in this case will aid the establishment candidate, Melinda Katz, who easily has the highest name recognition boroughwide in Queens,” former state Senate candidate Ross Barkan, a freelance journalist, said on Twitter, adding that it “will be harder for others to play catch up in 6 months.”

Katz said her campaign reports raising $206,311 since January 9, the day Queens District Attorney Richard A. Brown announced he would not seek re-election for the position he has held since 1991.

"I am very proud of our fundraising efforts and it is clear our pledge to bring important and much-needed criminal justice reform to Queens is resonating with the community,” Katz said in a statement. “The people of Queens are eager to see an end to cash bail, a commitment to discovery reform, an end to marijuana prosecutions, and an emphasis on rehabilitation and prevention along with prosecution.”

According to New York City Campaign Finance Board (CFB), Katz had raised more than $417,550 from 323 donors between January 13, 2018 and July 12, 2018.

Lancman said the $1.1 million he has raised demonstrates the desire for criminal justice reform in Queens County. Lancman raised $166,700 between January 13, 2018 and July 12, 2018 according to the CFB.

"Support and momentum are growing all across Queens, as people see that our campaign represents real reform of the criminal justice [system],” he said, adding that he is committed to “ending the New Jim Crow, where thousands of people of color a year are given criminal records for the rest of their lives for low-level offenses that shouldn’t be in the criminal justice system at all; prosecuting crimes against working people, women, immigrants, homeowners, and tenants; and holding law enforcement, including the police and our own office, to the highest standards of accountability.”

Jose Nieves, a prosecutor in the state Attorney General’s Office, and Tiffany Caban, a staff attorney for New York County Defenders, have also registered with the state Board of Elections, but their campaign finance reports were not yet available.

UPDATE 1/15/19: Nieves raised $10,385.00 according to the state campaign finance report.

UPDATE 1/15/19: Brown raised $3,239.17, though he announced he would not seek re-election earlier this month.

Rumored candidate Mina Malik, an attorney in the office of the Washington D.C. attorney general and a former prosecutor in Queens and Brooklyn, has not yet filed with the Board of Elections.

Department of Consumer Affairs Commissioner Lorelei Salas, who completed a DA questionnaire provided to her by the Queens branch of the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA), has not registered with the Board of Elections.

Legal Aid staff attorney Gabe Munson, who attended a DA candidate event hosted by the DSA last week, has also not yet registered to run.