Queer Latina Tiffany Cabán this week won a significant LGBTQ boost in her run for Queens district attorney, with the endorsement of the Victory Fund, a Washington-based group that helps elect out candidates across every level of government nationwide. At the same time, the Stonewall Democratic Club of New York City, the city’s largest LGBTQ political group, has opted to back Queens Borough President Melinda Katz in the race.
The endorsements come less than a month before the June 25 primary election to fill the seat previously held by the late Richard Brown, who served as Queens DA for more than two decades before acting DA John Ryan stepped in on an interim basis shortly before Brown’s May 3 death.
Former Houston Mayor Anise Parker, an out lesbian who is president and CEO of the Victory Fund, said in a written statement that Cabán is “a passionate advocate for fair and equitable criminal justice reform and understands that every decision made by a district attorney’s office impacts the lives of real people.”
“When she wins, Tiffany will become the first openly LGBTQ district attorney in New York City, and will help transform the lives of millions of Queens residents,” Parker added.
Stonewall’s membership on May 29 voted to support Katz, who was first elected borough president in 2013 after serving on the City Council and in the State Assembly.
In a written statement, Stonewall’s president, Rod Townsend, said, “For over 25 years, Melinda Katz has shown in her work in the New York Assembly, New York City Council, and as borough president that she will fight for LGBTQ New Yorkers. In a time when civil rights are being eroded at the federal level, she recognizes the role our local justice system can play in protecting and advancing the LGBTQ community and all marginalized New Yorkers. After hearing from the candidates and carefully considering their answers to our questions, our membership voted last night to bring Melinda’s effective and proven brand of leadership and advocacy to a new role as Queens district attorney.”
In a tweet hours after Stonewall’s endorsement, Katz thanked the club for supporting her campaign.
“I’m so proud to be endorsed by the largest LGBTQ+ Democratic organization in NYC and look forward to partnering with them as we fight for equality in our justice system,” Katz stated.
The 31-year-old Cabán laid out her platform in an April interview with Gay City News and described a campaign focused on decriminalizing and destigmatizing sex work while eradicating criminal justice abuses in the borough that have unfairly targeted people of color. In most cases, she said, she wouldn’t request cash bail or fight parole and she has vowed not to go after sex workers, their customers, or landlords and spaces facilitating sex work.
In a Jim Owles Liberal Democratic Club questionnaire earlier this year, Katz and Cabán each explicitly said they support the legalization of sex work. Cabán has since clarified her stance on that, saying she believes in decriminalization, while Katz, according to the Queens Eagle, said during a March forum that she is supportive of a diversion court where those arrested on sex work-related charges would typically see their charges dropped after completing mandated steps.
Noting that her queer Latina identity has shaped her career, Cabán spoke during the interview with Gay City News about the impact of criminal justice issues on the LGBTQ community. She explained that a transgender woman she represented could not afford bail, was thrown into a holding area with men, and, denied her hormone treatments, was growing facial hair for the first time in a long time.
She further noted that although the Manhattan Detention Center has housing for transgender women, only some trans women are placed there while the rest are thrown into solitary.
Cabán has vowed during her campaign to bring that kind of focus on LGBTQ issues to the DA’s office. She said she is “proud” to have the Victory Fund’s support and, if elected, would ensure that LGBTQ people in Queens “are protected, defended, and celebrated, and that their experiences are centered in our policies and practices.”
“As a queer Latina, I grew up with few elected officials that looked or sounded like me,” Cabán explained. “Victory Fund is working to change this by electing members of the LGBTQ community to public office — creating a whole new generation of diverse and representative leadership.”
Cabán has generated the most individual donations of any candidate in the race thus far, and state election data indicates she has $151,356.25 on hand after hauling in $256,673.41.
Katz leads all candidates in the race by bringing in $560,141 in the last cycle, and she currently has $907,019 on hand.
It is not currently clear how much traction Cabán is making against an incumbent borough president who has twice won Queens-wide races, but the Victory Fund’s endorsement adds to a growing list of leaders and organizations that have thrown their support behind the progressive candidate.
In addition to support from Congressmember Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and groups such as the VOCAL-NY Real Justice PAC, Cabán has landed endorsements from other LGBTQ organizations and political leaders including the Jim Owles Liberal Democratic Club, Queens Councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer — who himself is running for borough president in 2021 — and former gubernatorial candidate Cynthia Nixon.
Katz, who is 53, has also amassed a strong base of endorsements consisting of dozens of unions, hundreds of community leaders, nearly two dozen elected officials, and a number of community organizations. Congressmembers Carolyn Maloney and Gregory Meeks, the Queens County Democratic Party, and State Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie of the Bronx are among her backers.