By David Brand
Councilmember Rory Lancman formally dropped out of the race for Queens District Attorney and endorsed Borough President Melinda Katz — who he has criticized in TV ads and various candidate forums — Friday morning. Lancman’s announcement comes a day after the Eagle first reported on his decision to end his campaign and just four days ahead of the primary election.
Lancman and Katz held a press conference at the New Jerusalem Worship Center in South Jamaica to explain the move.
“The numbers are simply not there for me to win this Tuesday’s Democratic primary for district attorney,” he said. “I’m especially concerned about causing a split in South Queens, effectively diluting the community most impacted by the decisions our next DA must make.”
Lancman said Katz “has successfully made the effort to garner support in every community of our borough,” and added that he did not have a conversation with Queens County Democratic Party leadership before deciding to bow out.
“This has nothing to do with the Queens County Democratic Party organizations. I’ve had no conversations, no signals, no winks, no nods,” Lancman said. “No communication whatsoever with the Queens County Democratic Party.”
Katz said the importance of the DA race was “not a game.”
“This is not political maneuvering,” she added.
“We understand … that this decision needs to be made by the people of the borough, by the constituents that live her and [by] the people like he has said that are most impacted by criminal justice reform and by that system in which we are now living,” Katz said.
Other DA candidates slammed the decision as political maneuvering between two candidates with deep ties to the Queens County Democratic Party.
“This sounds like a classic plea deal,” said former Queens Supreme Court Justice Greg Lasak said. “The political machine pleaded for one career politician to endorse another career politician, and once again Queens families are left out.”
Former state Attorney General’s Office prosecutor Jose Nieves told the Eagle that the decision was “politics as usual.”
Former Civilian Complaint Review Board Director Mina Malik called the shift “extremely surprising.”
During a forum hosted by the Macon B. Allen Black Bar Association, Lancman denounced Katz and the other candidates as insufficiently committed to reform.
“There are only two criminal justice reformers in this race and that is me and [Tiffany] Cabán,” he said at the forum.
Lancman addressed his previous statements about Cabán, a public defender, during his press conference.
“So Tiffany and I are probably closest when it comes to philosophy but being district attorney is not a philosophy class,” he said. “You cannot be district attorney without any meaningful support in the African-American community. No pastors, no elected officials, no institutions.”
“You cannot be district attorney without making any effort to reach out to the Jewish community,” he added.
State Sen. James Sanders, who is black, switched his endorsement from Lancman to Cabán Thursday night. Cabán’s campaign forwarded a statement from Sanders when reached for comment.
"For too long, the criminal justice system has let the wealthy off easy, while Black and brown New Yorkers have spent years trapped in jail,” Sanders said. “Black and brown New Yorkers have been mistreated and harshly punished by the broken criminal justice system for far too long—Tiffany Cabán is going to bring real justice to working families in Queens."
Lancman’s campaign has $470,000 on hand, according to the most recent Board of Elections financial disclosure report.
The primary election for Queens DA is June 25. Lancman’s name will still appear on the ballot.