What you need to know about each Queens DA candidate

Queens District Attorney candidates debate the issues.
Queens District Attorney candidates debate the issues.
Jeff Coltin
Queens District Attorney candidates debate the issues.

What you need to know about each Queens DA candidate

The path to victory for all seven contenders.
June 16, 2019

The candidates for Queens district attorney have put forward their policy proposals and squared off in debates all across the borough. But voters will be electing a person, not a policy book, and there are other factors at play, including experience, endorsements and plain old politics.

Here’s a rundown of each candidate’s key details.

Tiffany Cabán

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Tiffany Cabán
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Tiffany Cabán
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Tiffany Cabán
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Tiffany Cabán
Image Credit: 
Megan Magray for Tiffany Cabán for Queens

Age: 31

Home base: Astoria

Job: Staff attorney, New York County Defender Services since 2015

Previous job: Public defender at the Legal Aid Society

Total contributions, as of the latest filing deadline on May 20: $256,673

Biggest individual donor: Patty Quillin, wife of Netflix CEO Reed Hastings, $35,000

Key endorsements: Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Working Families Party, Democratic Socialists of America, New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer, Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner

Why she’ll win: No candidate has as much grassroots excitement – or as many campaign donors – as Cabán, and this mid-June primary may come down to who can turn out the most voters.

Why she won’t: Cabán has way less money than the other top candidates and her message of radical change might not play well outside of northwest Queens.

Melinda Katz

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Melinda Katz
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Melinda Katz
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Melinda Katz
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Melinda Katz
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Sarah Blesener

Age: 53

Home base: Forest Hills

Job: Queens borough president since 2014

Previous jobs: Greenberg Traurig lobbyist, New York City councilwoman, director of community boards for the Queens borough president, assemblywoman and securities attorney at Weil, Gotshal & Manges

Total contributions, as of May 20: $1,419,243

Biggest individual donor: The New York Hotel and Motel Trades Council and Local 6 Committee on Political Education, with both hotel unions led by Peter Ward, gave a total of $52,000

Key endorsements: Gov. Andrew Cuomo, Queens County Democratic Party, Rep. Gregory Meeks, 1199SEIU, New York Hotel and Motel Trades Council

Why she’ll win: Katz has boroughwide name recognition, the most money and the most major endorsements.

Why she won’t: As the front-runner, she’s got a target on her back, and every other candidate is trying their hardest to peel away votes from her.

Rory Lancman

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Rory Lancman
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Rory Lancman
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Rory Lancman
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Rory Lancman
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Submitted

Age: 50

Home base: Fresh Meadows

Job: New York City councilman since 2014 and Justice System Committee chairman

Previous jobs: Assemblyman, civil litigator in private practice and U.S. Army National Guard infantry officer

Total contributions, as of May 20: $1,346,360

Biggest individual donor: John Umland, attorney and former district leader, $25,000

Key endorsements: Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union, police reform advocate (and mother of Eric Garner) Gwen Carr, state Sen. James Sanders Jr.

Why he’ll win: Lancman has a lot of money and occupies a middle ground where he could appeal to both progressive voters who want to see radical change and establishment voters who want somebody from within the political system.

Why he won’t: Lancman has a lot of money but he occupies a middle ground where he’s failing to appeal to either progressive voters who want to see radical change or establishment voters who want somebody from within the political system.

Gregory Lasak

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Greg Lasak
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Greg Lasak
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Greg Lasak
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Greg Lasak
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Greg Lasak for District Attorney

Age: 66

Home base: Richmond Hill

Job: Queens Supreme Court judge from 2004 to 2018

Previous job: Executive assistant district attorney in Queens

Total contributions, as of May 20: $1,258,982

Biggest individual donor: Pistilli Realty Group, $20,250

Key endorsements: New York Daily News, Lieutenants Benevolent Association, New York State Court Officers Association

Why he’ll win: With decades of experience and deep ties within the courthouse and legal communities, Lasak had been the heir apparent to the office for years.

Why he won’t: Lasak is an old white man with a sense of entitlement for the office, which isn’t a good fit for Democratic politics in 2019.

Mina Malik

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Mina Malik
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Mina Malik
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Mina Malik
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Mina Malik
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Mina Malik for District Attorney

Age: 48

Home base: Forest Hills

Job: Harvard Law School lecturer

Previous jobs: Deputy attorney general for Washington, D.C., executive director of the New York City Civilian Complaint Review Board, special counsel to the Brooklyn district attorney, assistant district attorney in Queens and investigator for the Public Defender Service for the District of Columbia

Total contributions, as of May 20: $608,644

Biggest individual donor: Malik and her husband, attorney Derek Sells, have together loaned the campaign $210,000

Key endorsements: American Pakistani Public Affairs Committee, civil rights attorney Benjamin Crump

Why she’ll win: Malik has a stellar legal résumé, a very Queens background, as the U.S. immigrant daughter of a Filipina Catholic and a Muslim Pakistani, and is married to a prominent black lawyer.

Why she won’t: Malik’s money and endorsements have largely been coming from outside of New York, and her promising campaign never caught fire in Queens.

Betty Lugo

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Betty Lugo
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Betty Lugo
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Betty Lugo
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Betty Lugo
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Betty Lugo for Queens District Attorney

Age: 60

Home base: Maspeth

Job: Founding partner at Pacheco & Lugo PLLC since 1992, practicing commercial litigation

Previous job: Assistant district attorney in Nassau County

Total contributions, as of May 20: $97,627

Biggest individual donor: Lugo has given the campaign $28,000 and loaned it another $40,000

Key endorsements: Assemblywoman Latrice Walker, former Judge Luis A. Gonzalez

Why she’ll win: A former Republican, Lugo has set herself apart as the most moderate candidate in the race.

Why she won’t: This is a Democratic primary, and Lugo’s more moderate takes haven’t inspired much support.

Jose Nieves

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Jose Nieves
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Jose Nieves
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Jose Nieves
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Jose Nieves
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Nieves for Queens DA

Age: 44

Home base: Queens Village

Job: Former deputy chief attorney general in the New York state Attorney General’s office from 2016 to 2018

Previous jobs: New York City Department of Correction litigator, Federal Aviation Administration counsel, U.S. Army Reserve captain and assistant district attorney in Brooklyn

Total contributions, as of May 20: $84,852

Biggest individual donor: Grace Jean, Damien Brown and Milton Florez, all attorneys, gave $2,500 each

Key endorsements: None

Why he’ll win: Nieves mixes Cabán’s progressive positions with years of prosecutorial experience.

Why he won’t: Nieves has little money and few connections in Queens politics.

Correction: A previous version of the article misstated the timing of Mina Malik's previous employment.

Jeff Coltin
is a staff reporter at City & State. He covers New York City Hall.
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