By David Brand
The four former prosecutors running in the Democratic primary for Queens District Attorney faced off at the Board of Elections on Friday in a battle over ballot petition signatures. In the end, all four will appear on June 25 primary ballot.
Allies of Mina Malik, a former Queens prosecutor and the executive director of the Civilian Complaint Review Board, challenged thousands of specific signatures on the ballot petitions submitted by former Judge Gregory Lasak, attorney Betty Lugo and attorney Jose Nieves earlier this month.
To qualify to appear on the primary ballot, candidates had to submit at least 4,000 valid signatures from registered Democrats residing in Queens by April 4. As a general rule, candidates attempt to submit three times the amount of necessary signatures with the expectation that many will be deemed invalid, election experts say.
All three candidates withstood the ballot petition challenges during a hearing at the Board of Elections on Friday. They will appear alongside public defender Tiffany Cabán, Borough President Melinda Katz, Councilmember Rory Lancman and Malik on the ballot. Malik’s team had also filed a general challenge to Cabán’s ballot petition earlier this month, but dropped it without filing specifications.
Before rising to the bench, Lasak served as a Queens prosecutor for more than 20 years. Lugo, who co-founded the first Latina-owned law firm in New York City, was a Nassau County prosecutor. Nieves, a former Army Reservist, was a prosecutor in Brooklyn and in the Office of the State Attorney General’s Office.
Nieves denounced the ballot petition challenge in a statement April 22.
“In a blatant and desperate effort Malik aims to be the new face of regressive undemocratic machine politics in Queens County,” Nieves said. “Malik’s frivolous legal maneuver is shameful, petty and only demonstrates her total lack of progressive values.”
Malik addressed the challenges in a statement of her own on Friday.
"Our campaign is committed to a fair and just election process to ensure that the residents of Queens County have the opportunity to elect the most experienced, qualified candidate as district attorney,” Malik said. “We identified significant irregularities in the challenged candidates' petitions which needed to be investigated in order to preserve the integrity of this election.”
"We respect the board's decision,” she continued. “Queens deserves a district attorney who will ensure that the rights of all individuals are protected and adjudicated fairly. We look forward to engaging in robust debate with all candidates moving forward."