The Agenda

Tiffany Cabán: Queer Latina Public Defender for District Attorney

Tiffany Cabán for Queens County District Attorney, New York

Election: June 25, 2019

Tiffany Cabán is a 31-year-old queer Latina running in a 7-way primary election for Queens County District Attorney. If she wins, she’ll represent over 2.3 million people (more than New Mexico and West Virginia). Tiffany has served as a public defender for 7 years and represented over 1,000 indigent clients in cases ranging from turnstile jumping to homicide. Throughout her professional career, she has used the law to help New York City’s most vulnerable communities. Her experience advocating on behalf of clients have helped her to identify some of the worst inequities in our criminal justice system.

Ms. Cabán is the only public defender and LGBTQ person in the race, running an aggressive progressive agenda that’s relying on a grassroots surge to send her to the general election. Her campaign has secured the support from NYC insurgency groups challenging the Queens establishment. Tiffany’s distinguishing herself from the crowded field by running on a social justice message, emphasizing criminal justice reform, that’s a sharp break from New York’s past “Tough on Crime” and “Stop and Frisk” initiatives.

Ms. Cabán was born in Richmond Hill, Queens, to Puerto Rican parents who grew up in the Woodside housing project, a residential neighborhood in Queens. Her father worked as an elevator mechanic while her mother watched and cared for other people’s children. Tiffany earned a B.S. in Crime, Law, and Justice from Penn State, and a J.D. from New York Law School, and returned to Queens to serve her community.

Watch her inspiring campaign ad here:

Former Hillary Clinton and John Kerry political strategist Peter Daou is impressed by Tiffany’s performance – so are we!

Victory Fund’s Cesar Toledo interviewed Ms. Cabán. The interview is below:

Q: Being a public defender can be thankless job. What inspired you to choose this career path?

A: “I became a public defender to protect the communities I grew up in. As a queer Latina who grew up in a low-income neighborhood, I saw the impact of mass incarceration on black and brown people firsthand. When I got to college and law school, I took courses that prepared me to defend my neighbors and friends. Becoming a public defender was the natural step, and I did it for the same reasons I’m running for DA today: to do the best I can every day to protect my communities.

I am the only career public defender out of seven candidates running for DA. As a public defender, a queer Latina, and a Richmond Hill native, I am the only candidate with an intimate connection – professional and personal – to the communities the office is meant to serve. That connection makes me a candidate who not only has the ability to reform policy, but also who intimately understands how the implementation of such policies will impact communities.”

Q: The current campaign finance reports put you behind some of your prominent opponents. What unconventional methods are you using to drum-up interest for your campaign?

A: “Our campaign plan hinges on talking to folks in impacted communities. We have seen from recent District Attorney elections that impacted communities are powerful messengers, and we’ve had substantial success connecting with folks that are not normally targeted in GOTV or registration efforts. We are also relying on the digital space and our uniquely transformative policy platform to generate attention and earned media. Although we were behind a few of our opponents in fundraising last quarter, much of their money comes from a few people or is self-funded; our broad base includes the most individual donors from Queens of any candidate, and we are working with our movement of advocates and endorsers to spread awareness of what a DA does and the upcoming election.”

Q: Your insurgency campaign has been endorsed by many prominent figures and groups including Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, LGBTQ Victory Fund, Progressive Change Campaign Committee (PCCC) and other progressive groups. How has the campaign leveraged these endorsements?

A: “Our endorsing partners are critical components of the movement to bring people-powered transformative justice to Queens. Whether text or phone-banking, canvassing, or supporting with contributions, our endorsers are the backbone of our outreach. These advocates are both pillars of their communities and offer their own infrastructure and networks that we have been able to tap into for fundraising, voter contact and volunteer recruitment.”

Q: What message would you like to send to Victory Fund supporters who are not in the New York area on why they should support candidates like you?

A: “I am a public defender running for Queens District Attorney to bring restorative change to my home. I have spent my career working for people without the resources to defend themselves against our brutal system of mass incarceration. I believe that Queens could be the center for progressive change and restorative justice, but more than that I believe we could spearhead a national movement to transform the paradigm of how District Attorneys operate. We can turn the office from a mechanism for incarceration into a clearinghouse for critical community-based supportive services. We can bring this conversation to the national spotlight and be the standard on solutions scaled to the size of the problem that is mass incarceration – and we can demand the Democratic party take notice. Queens would be the fourth-biggest city in the country, is the most diverse county in the country, and yet has one of the most regressive DA offices in the country backed by a political machine that suppresses the vote. If we can do it here, we can bring this movement everywhere. This election is a unique, generational opportunity to center justice and invest in community organizations and services instead of incarceration.”

You can show your support for this outstanding candidate by donating directly to the campaign, purchasing some swag or volunteering!

2019, Candidates, Endorsements