Democratic Socialists Look To Flex Influence In Tuesday's Primary Election Race


NEW YORK (CBSNewYork)Queens Democrats pick a district attorney candidate tomorrow in a race that’s taken on national significance.

It’s a power struggle where the names not on the ballot may be just as important as those that are, CBS2 political reporter Marcia Kramer explains.

Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is not running for Queens district attorney, but when the ballots are counted after Tuesday’s Democratic primary, her name will be on everyone’s lips.

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez speaks on stage during the 2019 Athena Film Festival on March 3, 2019, in New York City. (credit: Lars Niki/Getty Images)

The race where she is backing insurgent Tiffany Caban is the first big test of the coalition of activists, reformers and Democratic socialists who helped her stun the political world by unseating long time congressman Joe Crowley and the Queens Democratic organization.

“This is without question a test for the Queens organization for regular Democratic politics in New York City,” said Hank Sheinkopf, political consultant in the Queens DA race. “If Caban doesn’t win, AOC is temporarily stalled.”

WATCH: ‘The Democratic Primary For Queens District Attorney: A New Era’ Special Presentation

There are currently six candidates. City councilman Rory Lancman dropped out last week and threw his support behind Queens borough president Melinda Katz who is backed by Crowley, the Queens Democratic organization, Gov. Andrew Cuomo and lots of labor unions.

The others are Caban, a public defender who is also backed by senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren; former judge Greg Lasak; former prosecutor Betty Lugo; former Queens assistant district attorney Mina Malik; and Jose Nieves, a former Brooklyn assistant district attorney.

Pundits say Caban, Katz, and Lasak are the front-runners based on money raised and endorsements, but it will depend on who is able to get their voters to the polls. All three are pounding the pavement seeking support.

Caban was at a subway stop in Jackson Heights on Monday.

“[The race is] stark contrast between entrenched political structures and our communities … recognizing how much power we have, how much power we can build together through community organizing,” she said.

Katz was in Flushing.

“This is about the future of the borough of Queens. It’s not about a national dynamic,” she said. “It is about Queens County speaking for itself. It is not about outside forces coming in and telling us how to vote.”

Lasak was in Bayside, saying he’s been both a judge and a prosecutor.

“You need the experience … If you’ve never been in that office, never practiced law as a criminal attorney, never been a judge, I don’t see how you can walk in there and be in charge of 325 lawyers,” he said.

If the AOC insurgents win it could also spell trouble for other elected officials. Long-serving congressmen in New York could be vulnerable, with senators and assembly members having targets on their backs.

Hear More From Each Of The Seven Democratic Candidates In These Extended Interviews:

The primary election is Tuesday, June 25, 2019. Polling sites will be open from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. click here to find your polling location.