Tiffany Cabán, 31, is a Democratic candidate running for District Attorney in New York’s Queen’s County. She was born and raised in South Richmond Hill, Queens and is a self-described “queer Latina from a low-income community”.
Cabán is one of the newest members of the young, rising democratic socialist movement that’s taken hold of the Democratic party and had a significant influence on the party’s views and stances on issues. She has been endorsed by party leaders and Presidential candidates Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders and backed by groups including the Democratic Socialists of America and the Working Families Party.
Cabán’s central platform includes a push to stop incarcerating poor people which includes not prosecuting pimps and prostitutes, people avoiding subway fares, recreational drug-related crimes, or resisting arrest crimes and achieving a “population zero” in the city’s prisons. Her views are shaped by her time as a public defender, telling Jacobin Magazine that she witnessed a system that had “taken public health issues and punted them to a criminal justice system”.
Despite her views receiving significant criticism, she is unwavering in her approach. “The common ground that exists between us is just an utter, unapologetic, unwavering commitment to center the experiences and needs of our communities and absolutely nobody else,” Cabán said in an interview with CNN, “And just not caring about anything else, not caring about who you’re going to piss off, whose feathers you’re gonna ruffle. If we’re going to say ‘the next,’ then I’m looking forward to ‘the next’ and ‘the next’ and ‘the next.'”
Cabán’s election has implications that extend well beyond Queens. It would represent a growing transformation in the Democratic party and may signal a shift in values and viewpoints from the Democratic party as a whole.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. She Was Endorsed by the New York Times
The editorial board at the New York Times wrote an article endorsing Tiffany Caban for District Attorney. They talked about how the crack epidemic of the late 80s and early 90s had turned NYC into a “battleground” and the subsequent response by Queens district attorney Robert Brown after he was elected in 1991 that included “among other tactics, aggressive prosecutions that filled prisons and devastated generations of black and Hispanic families.”
The article admits that she’s not the most experienced or most skilled candidate in the race but say her 7 years as a public defender “have given her insight into how the system works, and how it ought to be changed,” and also gives her the ability to institute some much-needed sweeping reforms to NYC’s dated crime laws and policing tactics.
2. Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez Is a Big Supporter of Tiffany Cabán
AOC has been the most vocal and perhaps the most influential supporter of Tiffany Cabán’s campaign. In many ways, AOC paved the way for Cabán’s campaign when she became the unlikely winner of a 2018 midterm election in Queens running on a democratic socialist platform. Their political careers share many parallels, they are both young politicians from the same district in Queens and both are outspoken democratic socialists that are challenging the Democratic Party establishment.
“This race is so incredibly important … because it is not just about electing Tiffany Cabán to the district attorney’s office, this is about changing the entire paradigm of criminal justice,” Ocasio-Cortez said in during a speech at a rally on June 23. “That’s what this race is about.”
If Cabán is elected, Queen’s county which, if it were a city would be the 4th largest city in America, would have two democratic socialist leaders. AOC is taking a risk endorsing Cabán who has been criticized for some of her more extreme policies.
3. She Wants to Decriminalize Sex Work
One of Cabán’s more controversial positions is the decriminalization of sex work. If elected, she would not prosecute prostitutes, pimps, or customers engaging in sex work. “We just criminalize the people who have been destabilized by systemic problems, and you know our sex work community falls squarely within that category,” she told BuzzFeed News.
During a debate last Tuesday, she promised that “on day one it comes from being part of a memo to our district attorneys saying you will not prosecute sex workers, customers, and you will not prosecute under the promoting prostitution charges”
Cabán has several controversial proposals and viewpoints but her views on sex workers have attracted the most attention.
4. She’s Facing Backlash for Some of Her More Progressive Views
Tiffany Cabán has her fair share of critics who disagree with her approach to crime in Queens. Lawyer Alexi Ashe-Meyers, wife of late night host Seth Meyers, disagrees that decriminalizing sex work will lead to safer communities and may actually encourage human trafficking. “If you decriminalize the sex trade, you are increasing the demand for that and you have to fill that demand with supply. Who fills that supply?” She said, “What Cabán supports is decriminalizing the entire sex trade. By doing this, she is betraying survivors of trafficking.”
Laura Ramírez, a program coordinator for the Coalition Against Trafficking in Women, agrees with Meyers, “Queens is going to be the borough for sex tourism in the city,” she told the New York Post, “That’s the only thing that can happen. It’s just open season.”
Other critics say that her proposal will turn NYC into a “brothel”. State Supreme Court Judge Greg Lasak says not prosecuting ‘johns’ or sex work customers, a position that Cabán supports, is a bad idea. “I don’t think that’s a good thing,” he said of Cabán’s plan. “I don’t think the people of Queens want that.”
5. She Identifies as Queer
Tiffany Cabán has described herself as a “queer Latina” during her campaign and put it front and center during her campaign. If elected, she would be the first Latina District Attorney and the first openly queer District Attorney in New York history.