It began with Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez's victory over Queens Rep. Joe Crowley last year.
It continued with victories over Republican-aligned members of the state Senate last September, and it appears to have struck again, this time with political novice Tiffany Cabán leading Queens Borough President Melinda Katz in the Democratic primary for Queens district attorney. Thousands of paper ballots have yet to be counted, but experts believe Cabán's lead will hold.
The Queens County Democratic organization, once one of the most reliable machines in New York politics, is showing serious signs of age and vulnerability but can't seem to see it for themselves.
"It reminds me of the stages of grief and they are still in the denial phase. To not recognize what is happening is a huge mistake on their part," said Democratic State Sen. Michael Gianaris of Queens. "But in the meantime, the work keeps going and the organizers keep working."
Gianaris represents western Queens, the epicenter of the progressive wave which kept corporate giant Amazon from setting up shop in Long Island City. He is also the deputy leader in the new Senate majority, which had a banner year in Albany this past session.
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"We passed a couple a dozen things, any one of which would have made for a productive session in the past. We did all of them," Gianaris said. "So we have had the most progressive and most productive session New York has ever seen."
At one time, few politicians were more closely associated with the Queens machine than Gianaris. But, after seeing the writing on the wall, he switched sides and now backs candidates against county leaders, including Cabán.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo chalked up Cabán's apparent win to low voter turnout. "If you have elections where very few people turn out, then by definition, the motivated minority wins," the governor said.
Gianaris sees it differently. "Some of us still live in Queens," he said. "We see what is happening in Queens on a regular basis."
The Queens DA race is not over, with more votes to be counted, but the fact that it was even this close would have been unthinkable just two years ago. Insiders chalk it up to Democratic civic engagement in the era of Donald Trump, who is deeply unpopular on the left.
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