Despite Urgency, Our Community’s Voter Turnout Was Abysmal
The first competitive primary election for Queens District Attorney in the first open-seat race in a generation may have made history on Tuesday – but we may not know the final results for a few days. Tiffany Cabán, a Latina woman who does not have any experience as a prosecutor, ran on the platform of closing the Rikers Island prison, decriminalizing prostitution, and refusing to prosecute charges such as fare evasion, recreational drug use, and loitering. As of this writing Tuesday night, she leads Queens Borough President Melinda Katz by about 1,000 votes, and although Cabán has declared victory, there are still thousands of mailed-in ballots to be counted, so no official winner has been named.
With the support of The New York Times, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, activist Linda Sarsour, dozens of celebrities, and small donors from across the country, Cabán’s unconventional campaign reached out across the borough in search of politically progressive young voters, disaffected minorities, and others who shared her vision of transforming the office of District Attorney.
Looking at the early results, the 36th Assembly District in Western Queens handed Cabán a landslide, being the same district that previously supported other leftist insurgents such as Cynthia Nixon for governor and Bernie Sanders for president.
The 27th District, which covers Kew Gardens Hills, had Katz beating Cabán two to one, but showed a poor turnout; after all the hard election work by rabbis, community leaders, activists, local elected officials, and this columnist, why was it so difficult for some people to come out and vote?
As my fellow columnists have written many times before, being a New York City voter is not about idealism. Those who register as Republicans have no voice in this overwhelmingly Democratic city, where primaries such as this determine how the city is governed and the direction of the party. In many ways, a race for mayor, State Assembly, State Senate, City Council, and District Attorney has a greater impact on the neighborhood than the presidential contest.
A dozen miles to our south in Brooklyn, the Orthodox Jewish community gets it. In that borough's 45th Council District, incumbent Farah Louis defeated challenger Monique Chandler-Waterman. Like our borough president, Louis had the support of Brooklyn's political leaders, rabbis, activists, and Jewish newspapers. How did she manage to win comfortably with 53 percent of the vote? Because the Jews of Marine Park, Flatbush, and Midwood made the effort to vote.
We had an opportunity to take back the Democratic Party - and there’s a good chance we failed. Whatever chores we had on Tuesday evening, or the fear of receiving a jury summons, that kept some of us from the voting booth, may have resulted in a diminished clout for our community and a new District Attorney who looks towards ideology rather than security in formulating the policies of the borough’s top law enforcement official.
Editor’s Note: The final tally of votes Tuesday night coincided with our printing deadline. We will have more coverage next week.
By Sergey Kadinsky