FOR BREAKING NEWS VISIT WWW.QNS.COM JANUARY 2, 2020 • 2020 PREVIEW • THE QUEENS COURIER 21
Photo by Mark Hallum
Tiff any Caban’s near-upset in last years Democratic primary for Queens District Attorney emboldened many young progressives to challenge the party establishment in 2020.
What you need to know about
the upcoming election cycle
BY BILL PARRY
Th e 2020 elections will let voters know if
the drift towards the left wing progressives
continues in Queens, particularly in the
western portion of the borough, and if the
events of the last two election cycles represent
a fl uke or a tectonic shift in politics in
With the entire state legislature facing
re-election, the polls next year will serve
as a rorschach test for which direction the
borough is moving politically.
Th e shift to the left began with
Congresswoman Alexander Ocasio-
Cortez’s stunning primary upset of
Democratic boss Joe Crowley which gave
new energy to progressive organizations
such as the Working Families Party and
the Democratic Socialists of America
in Queens. Th e organizations coalesced
around the mission of defeating the
so-called Queens Machine, and that led
to a near upset by public defender Tiff any
Cabán against the “establishment candidate,”
Queens Borough President Melinda
Katz who eventually won the Democratic
primary for Queens District Attorney by
only 55 votes aft er a six-week recount.
Cabán’s radical decarceral platform
became a national story and earned her the
endorsements of presidential candidates,
Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders. But
it may have awakened a sleeping giant at
the same time, the rest of the Democratic
party in Queens that year aft er year had
low voter turnout because so many candidates
were left unchallenged on primary
ballots and many times unopposed by
Republicans in the general election.
Many other Democrats in other areas
of the borough grew alarmed at the progressive
victories, primarily when it came
to criminal justice reforms in the state legislature.
Th is is what makes the 2020 cycle so
interesting to watch as Democratic incumbents
are facing primary challenges, some
for the fi rst time, from candidates who
claim to be more progressive.
Assemblywoman Catherine Nolan,
Assemblyman Michael DenDekker and
Assemblywoman Aravella Simotas are all
facing primary challenges from the progressives.
State Senator Michael Gianaris, the
Deputy Majority Leader, who played a
central role in fl ipping the Senate from
Republican control last year, is facing two
challengers in the Democratic primary for
a very diff erent reason. Jusitn Potter on
Long Island City and Iggy Terranova of
Astoria were so outraged by Gianaris’ stand
against Amazon’s plan to build an HQ2
campus along the East River waterfront in
Long Island City that they launched campaigns
to defeat him.
Gianaris became such a central fi gure in
the groundswell of opposition against the
e-commerce giant that he became known
as the “Amazon Slayer” who saw the nearly
$3 billion the state and city were off ering
in the deal as corporate welfare wasting
money that should be used on schools,
transportation, housing and infrastructure.
Terranova and Potter blame Gianaris for
the loss of 25,000 good-paying jobs that
Amazon promised over 10 years, with a
plan to grow to 40,000 over 15 years.
With all of the drama that is set to play
out in 2020, it will be the undercard to
the following year when 2021 will usher
in a sea change in leadership in the City
Council. In Queens, 11 out of 15 City
Council districts will have open contests
because term limits prevent the incumbent
from seeking re-election.
Th e 2020 election cycle should serve as
a barometer as to which direction Queens