By David Brand
Queens Borough President Melinda Katz reversed an 1,199-vote deficit and now leads public defender Tiffany Cabán by 20 votes after Board of Elections officials completed a count of roughly 3,500 absentee and 487 affidavit ballots Wednesday.
Cabán led Katz 34,104 votes to 32,905 votes before the count began at the BOE’s Queens office in Forest Hills. A vote differential of less than one-half of 1 percent triggers a recount, according to the BOE.
Eight days after Cabán declared victory at her Election Night party in Woodside, it was Katz’s turn to claim the Democratic nomination.
“I am proud to have been chosen as the Democratic nominee for for Queens District Attorney,” Katz said. We know that these numbers can and will be subject to recount, and there may be legal challenges, but what matters most is the will of Queens voters.”
“I want to thank the people of Queens for delivering this important victory; I look forward to having tonight’s results affirmed in the coming days; and I am honored to be ready to serve as Queens’ next District Attorney,” she added.
But Cabán’s campaign team said the election is far from over.
“Queens voters are inspired by Tiffany Cabán's campaign and her vision for real criminal justice reform,” said Cabán’s spokesperson Monica Klein. “If every valid paper ballot vote is counted, we are confident we will prevail."
Cabán’s campaign filed a pre-emptive lawsuit in Queens Supreme Court Tuesday in case of any irregularities in the vote count process.
Her campaign said it would also challenge the nearly 2,300 affidavit ballots ruled invalid by the BOE ahead of Wednesday’s count. Volunteers and staff began tweeting fundraising pleas to help pay for the intense process.
Cabán’s election attorney Jerry Goldfeder did not share his perspective on the count when asked for comment Wednesday night.
“There will be a full manual recount,” Goldfeder said.
Attorney Frank Bolz, a powerful leader of the Queens County Democratic Party, managed the count for Katz, overseeing a team of monitors who were seated at each of the eight tables in Board of Elections office.
The Queens County Democrats appointed the Queens’ Democratic Board of Elections commissioner — one of the city’s ten BOE commissioners (one Democrat and one Republicans from each of the five counties) — prompting some Cabán supporters and election watchers to question the impartiality of the individuals who determine the validity of ballots.
“I will say again, we should not allow the Board of Elections to be hired by the BPs and electeds of each borough. How can a system that is supposed to be democratic and unbiased work that way when by moment of hire they are brought in under pretense,” tweeted City Council candidate Amanda Farias.
However, election attorney Ali Najmi said the result was likely based on smart strategy by Katz, and not party maneuvering.
“It looks like Melinda Katz's campaign had an absentee ballot initiative and they were smart for it,” said Najmi, who worked as an election lawyer for candidate Mina Malik, as well as various candidates for elected office in Queens candidates.
“The board has excellent staff and it’s a transparent process that allows both campaigns and their lawyers to be present and observe. There’s a lot of integrity with the Board process,” he added.
The recount date has not yet been scheduled.
The winner will face Republican nominee Daniel Kogan in the November general election. Kogan told the Eagle last week that he was willing to step aside to open the nomination to former Judge Gregory Lasak, who finished third in the Democratic primary.
Lasak has not responded to request for comment but has not ruled out the possibility of running on the GOP line.
“I’m just absorbing everything,” Lasak said at his election night party. “I haven’t thought about it.”