Tiffany Cabán, a former public defender who ran as an insurgent candidate and came within 60 votes of clinching the Democratic nomination for Queens district attorney last year, launched a campaign for City Council Thursday. 

Cabán, 33, is running to represent the City Council's 22nd District, which includes parts of Astoria, East Elmhurst, and Rikers Island in Queens.

The seat is currently held by Councilman Costa Constantinides, who will be term-limited out of office at the end of next year. 

Cabán is the daughter of Puerto Rican parents and grew up in Richmond Hill. Her nearly-successful run for district attorney was seen as a sign of the growing support around the city for left-wing candidates. That trend has continued in subsequent races, including in multiple state legislative campaigns this past June.

Since her loss to Katz, Cabán has been working as a national organizer with the Working Families Party, which could play a pivotal role in the race. Cabán will join a crowded field of candidates ahead of municipal elections in 2021. Every citywide post and local seat will be on the ballot. The Democratic primary is scheduled for June 23 of next year.

"I am running to represent every single person, in every single corner, of this district," Cabán said in a statement. "I love the people who live here, and I believe that change is possible. Together, we will end the carceral system, establish a care economy, and implement a Green New Deal for New York City."

So far, Cabán has secured the support of several local elected officials, including Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer and State Senators Jessica Ramos and Michael Gianaris.

“Tiffany’s fight for social justice started decades ago. She was fighting against the criminalization of poverty as an activist and later was speaking out against police brutality as a public defender," Gianaris said in a statement. "Her track record and drive to fight for vulnerable communities make her the proven leader we need to represent Queens in the City Council."

Cabán's race for district attorney centered around criminal justice reform, the push to close Rikers Island, decriminalizing sex work, and ending cash bail for all offenses. Her platform for the City Council will mirror similar themes. 

"The city council failed the test of political courage and moral clarity by protecting the bloated police budget," Cabán said Thursday.

But some of her positions could put her at odds with the 51-member body, which is responsible for approving the city's budget and voting on major land use decisions. 

"We need a wave of bold, progressive and better yet - socialist leaders," she said.

Already, Cabán says she has no plans to stick to council norms, like following the lead of local members when it comes to land use decisions.   

"I am going to consistently vote on the side of working people and low income families," Cabán said. "We're going to make sure that we are in alignment with that, no matter what. Period"

Her campaign for DA received a major boost from the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who helped marshal an army of volunteers and supporters in parts of the district who have reliably voted along left-leaning Democratic Party lines in recent years. While that edge proved not enough in the borough-wide race against Katz, a similar approach could play out differently in a local district race.

Caban will face off against a handful of candidates, including the chief of staff for Councilmember Constantinides, who has already received his boss' endorsement.


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