If you don’t follow politics closely you may wonder why the sitting Borough President would launch a bid to be the District Attorney of Queens when she doesn’t have to vacate her current office until 2022. The answer is actually pretty simple. The District Attorney office is not term limited and the occupant of that office usually stays there as long as they want, which was the case with current DA Richard Brown, who has been there since June of 1991.
Furthermore, the DA’s office has tremendous power to impact the day-to-day lives of the residents of Queens. While the office is primarily responsible with dispensing justice to people who commit crimes, the office holder has a lot of say in how that happens. They can choose to plea certain crimes down to lesser sentences if they think it is in the best interest of the public. They can also wield the resources of the office to provide services to help vulnerable populations from being victimized by providing free legal advice, or other services.
Launching her bid for District Attorney from McDonald Park in Forest Hills, surrounded by elected officials, community and business leaders and dozens of other supporters, current Borough President Melinda Katz started to spell out what her priorities will be if elected. The cornerstone of her platform is revisioning the office to be a “partner for justice” with local communities and leaders.
“Whatever your ethnicity, background, immigration status or economic means; whether you are a third-generation Queens resident or someone who came here yesterday to provide your family a better life; whatever your gender identification or sexual orientation, Justice must always look the same,” Katz said. “All too often, it does not. As the District Attorney, I will fight to achieve fairness in the criminal justice system.”
Katz platform includes efforts to prevent crime and promote social progress through bail and sentencing reforms as well as a softening punishment on low-level marijuana arrests. One area she said she will not be soft on is hate crimes targeting people for their religion, ethnicity or sexual identity.
“Our nation as a whole is re-normalizing the dangerous marginalization of people of color, of immigrants, of the poor. Yet there are powerful movements underway to combat that regression, and my agenda is part of a recommitment to inclusion, equity, fair treatment and justice,” she said
Katz already has several challengers for the office, but she is widely believed to be the front runner in the race and the preferred candidate of the powerful Queens Democratic Committee.
The Democratic primary election for District Attorney will take place in September of next year. The winner of the Democratic primary will be a heavy favorite to win the office in the November general election.
The Other Candidates
Rory Lancman is a current City Councilman. He has been a vocal critic of the current DA’s office on issues of criminal justice reform and specifically on the closing of Rikers Island prison, an issue the current DA has not supported.
Greg Lasak is a former assistant District Attorney and a former judge. He has positioned himself as a lawyer and not a politician, and has also advocated for criminal justice reform and a empowering communities to help prevent crime. He released a statement following Katz announcement, saying, “I welcome Borough President Katz to the growing field of career politicians running for District Attorney. As the only non-politician in this race, I look forward to putting my decades-long record of fighting crime and freeing the innocent up against anyone else’s.”
Mina Malik is the former Executive Director of New York City’s Civilian Complaint Review Board, which is responsible for investigating misconduct by the NYPD. She is expected to announce her bid for the office in the near future.