NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – First there was a shock, and now there’s a ballot battle in the race for Queens district attorney.

A tally of paper ballots has reversed the initial results, and the margin is so close it’s forcing an automatic recount.

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There was heated exchange Friday between lawyers for campaign for Queens Borough President Melinda Katz and attorneys for public defender Tiffany Caban‘s campaign.

(Credit: CBS2)

Those attorneys were duking it out over disputed votes that could tip the final primary election for Queens District Attorney one way or another.

“We’re talking about a situation where we’re all going to court anyway,” said Caban campaign attorney Renee Pardis.

Caban, a Democratic Socialist, bucked the party establishment when the initial returns put her ahead of Katz, who some considered a shoe-in.

Caban declared victory with her 1,100 vote lead on election night, but she knew there were 3,400 absentee ballots still to be counted.

It took until Wednesday for the final count of paper ballots, and the shocker that they pushed Katz to the front with just 20 votes.

Such a narrow margin automatically triggers a recount. So both candidates’ teams must battle for every vote – a potentially long and expensive process.

Web Extras:

Demonstrators gathered outside the Board of Elections office Friday.

There are questions marks over certain ballots thrown out for various reasons.

Inside, at the table, the Katz lead went down from 20 to 16 votes. This was helped by people who came forward to say their votes were thrown out by technicalities, including Joseph Moore.

“I did not write Democrat on the affidavit, even though I’ve been registered as a Democrat for years,” Moore said.

“Do you think that’s unfair?” asked CBS2’s Dave Carlin.

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“Yes,” Moore said.

Neither Katz nor Caban were present, but they put out statements.

“With a full recount coming up, there’s more work to be done. Help us make sure every valid vote is counted,” Caban tweeted Friday.

Katz declared victory, saying, “We know that these numbers can and will be subjected to recount. But what matters is the will of Queens voters.”


What will ultimately matter could hinge on votes that were thrown out being thrown back in.

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Both sides accuse the other of “cherry-picking” votes, but also say they want every valid vote counted. A Katz campaign spokesperson released a statement saying they are confident they will maintain their lead as the recount moves forward starting Tuesday.