Tiffany Cabán, a previously little-known public defender whose candidacy became a top priority for liberal Democrats nationally, claimed victory Tuesday night in a primary for district attorney in the New York borough of Queens.

Cabán, 31, drew endorsements from two 2020 presidential contenders — Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) — as well as from Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), whose district includes part of Queens.

“This campaign started with just four women, sitting around a kitchen table, saying: we have to change the system,” Cabán said in a tweet Tuesday night. “So I did what many thought was unthinkable for a 31-year-old Queer Latina public defender whose parents grew up in the Woodside Houses. I decided to run.”

During her Democratic primary campaign, Cabán made clear that if she prevailed, people who jump subway turnstiles would not be prosecuted, and neither would recreational drug users, loiterers or sex workers. She said the cash bail system would be dismantled as quickly as possible and that resources used to go after petty crime would be redirected toward abusive landlords.

As of late Wednesday morning, Cabán had a lead of 1.3 percentage points over her closest challenger, Melinda Katz, with 99 percent of precincts reporting. With absentee ballots still to be counted, Katz, who was the preferred candidate of the Democratic establishment, declined to concede.


Public defender Tiffany Caban declares victory in the Queens district attorney Democratic primary election at her campaign watch party Tuesday night. (Scott Heins/Getty Images)

The winner of the Democratic primary is heavily favored to win the general election in November in a borough that is home to more than 2.3 million people. The candidates are seeking to succeed longtime Queens district attorney Richard Brown, who died in May.

Cabán’s apparent victory was celebrated on social media Tuesday night by her prominent backers.

“Tiffany Cabán took on virtually the entire political establishment and built a grassroots movement,” Sanders wrote on Twitter. “This is a victory for working people everywhere who are fighting for real political change and demanding we end cash bail, mass incarceration and the failed war on drugs.”

Ocasio-Cortez wrote that she was “incredibly proud” of Cabán and those who showed up to vote for her.

“No matter how this ends, you all have stunned NY politics tonight,” Ocasio-Cortez wrote. “When people come together, we can beat big money in elections. People power is no fluke.”

David Weigel contributed to this report.